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Full text of "Idle comments"

THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 

THE 
HAJVES FOUNDATION 

FOR THE STUDY OF THE 

ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT 

OF THE BOOK 



ESTABLISHED BY THE CHILDREN OF 

JOHN WESLEY AND ANNA HODGIN HANES 

APRIL 5 1929 



C 314 



J^f^\OiyyKs^<y 



UNIVERSITY OF N.C. AT CHAPEL HILL 



00017478882 



This book may be kept out one month unless a recall 
notice is sent to you. It must be brought to the North 
Carolina Collection (in Wilson Library) for renewal. 



Form No. A-369 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://archive.org/details/idlecommentsOaver 



IDLE COMMENTS 



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IDLE 


C O M M K N T S 


BY 


ISAAC ERWIN AVERY 


Late City Editor of the Charlotte Observer 


1 


CHARLOTTE, N. C. 


THE AVERY PUBLISHING COMPANY 


1905 



Cofyrigkt, igos 
By GEORGE STEPHENS 



Publishers' Printing Company 
New York 



PREFACE 

Immediately after Mr. Avery's untimely and tragic 
death, there was a demand throughout the State that 
there should be published a memorial volume con- 
sisting of selections from his writings. Mr. D. A. 
Tompkins, Mr. George Stephens, W. H. Twitty and 
Mr. Chase Brenizer, all of Charlotte, appreciating the 
importance of the suggestion, assumed the financial re- 
sponsibility of such a volume. In addition, they con- 
ceived the idea that, by the sale of the book, memorial 
scholarships m.ight be established at Trinity College, 
Mr. Avery's alma mater. They asked the undersigned 
board of editors to prepare the volume. 

The editors now present what is, in their judgment, 
the best work of this gifted man. We have endeavored 
to make the selections of such a varied interest as to 
show at once the versatility of his mind and to appeal 
to all classes of readers. There has been no revision of 
his work — with a very few unimportant changes the 
selections are just as he wrote them. There is no 
better evidence of his genius than the fact that writing, 
done at times with such great haste and with the pres- 
sure of night work upon him, should be so strikingly 
free from infelicities of diction. 

It is the opinion of the editors that the present vol- 
ume is evidence at once of Mr. Avery's literary ability, 
[vii] 



PREFACE 

and a record of life in North Carolina such as has not 
been published in the State. We believe, too, that he 
treated local affairs and local characters with such an 
unerring knowledge of human nature that his writings 
will appeal to men of other sections. We bespeak for 
the volume a hearty reception by those who knew him 
in the flesh and felt the charm of his personality; by 
those who never saw him, but followed his words as 
eagerly as those of an intimate friend and a genial 
philosopher; by those who, not having known him 
before, may find here the revelation of a very rare 
spirit. 

Edwin Mims, 
J. P. Caldwell, 
C. Alphonso Smith, 
Plato Durham, 
J. W. Bailey. 



[viii] 



ISAAC ERWIN AVERY 

Isaac Erwin Avery was born at the ancestral home 
of the Averys, at Swan Ponds, about four miles from 
Morganton, in Burke county, N. C, on the first day 
of December, 187 1, and died at Charlotte, on the sec- 
ond day of April, 1904. He was the second son of 
Hon. Alphonso C. Avery and Susan Morrison Avery, 
and was descended from families whose members were 
prominent in the country's history. His parents moved 
to Morganton when he was very young, and there 
his boyhood days were spent, attending the primary 
schools. He was prepared for college at the Academy 
of Morganton by Rev. John A. Gilmer, now the Pres- 
byterian minister at Newton, N. C, and might have 
entered college at the age of sixteen, but remained at 
home for a while, devoting most of his time to reading. 
His fondness for reading developed when a mere boy, 
as did his propensity for writing humorous letters and 
compositions. He spent some months in the service of 
the Western North Carolina Railroad Company, at 
Morganton and Hot Springs. For six months or more 
prior to entering college he served as collector for the 
Bank of Morganton. He entered the sophomore class 
of Trinity College (then located in Randolph county, 
and later moved to Durham) in 1890, and his course 

[ix] 



ISAAC ERWIN AVERY 

there was marked by a special fondness for history and 
literature. He was an excellent football player, and 
was universally esteemed by faculty and students. 
During his senior year he read law under his father, the 
dean of the law department of Trinity, and when 
Hcensed, in September, 1893, was, to say the least, as 
well prepared as any candidate in the large class which 
went before the Supreme Court. 

While he was regarded by all who came in contact 
with him as possessing a mind especially fitted for the 
law, his tastes and talents were constantly driving him 
toward newspaper and more general literary work. 
He had made good progress along this line before leav- 
ing college, as editor of The Trinity Archive and as 
correspondent for different papers in the State. His 
first contribution which earned him money was a para- 
graph of about thirty lines sent to Town Topics, with- 
out hope of reward, during the Christmas vacation of 
1892. For this he received ten dollars. This incident 
led to dreams of making reputation and support some 
day as a writer. 

Soon after receiving his license to practice law, Mr. 
Avery returned to Morganton and was employed by 
Mr. W. C. Erwin as associate editor of The Morganton 
Herald. Here he exercised a free hand in writing for 
the paper, and attracted considerable outside attention 
by his original methods and the excellent humor in 
many of his articles. Upon the invitation of Mr. 
Thomas P. Jernigan, then a citizen of Raleigh, who 
had been appointed by President Cleveland consul- 
general at Shanghai, Mr. Avery left for China in 

[X] 



ISAAC ERWIN AVERY 

March, 1894, as secretary to the consul-general. In 
less than a year he was appointed vice consul-general at 
Shanghai, which office he filled until the spring of 
1898, when a new consul-general was named by 
President McKinley. In China Mr. Avery did some 
writing for American newspapers, but decided not to 
continue the work, owing to his connection with the 
consular service. He was, however, during a large 
part of his stay in Shanghai a regular contributor to 
The North China Daily News, the leading English 
paper in the Orient. While residing in Shanghai, Mr. 
Avery was prominent in the leading social circle 
among the foreign residents and absorbed a rich fund 
of information which stood him in good stead later, 
and made him a most interesting talker not only about 
things in the Far East, but in the world at large. 

When he returned to North CaroHna, he took up 
active newspaper work after a few months, reporting 
the proceedings of the State Senate in the Legislature 
of 1899 for a number of newspapers represented by 
Col. Fred A. Olds, of Raleigh. He also had charge of 
Colonel Olds's news bureau for a month or more while 
he was on a trip to Cuba. About May i, 1899, he 
went to Greensboro, where he estabUshed a news 
bureau, representing a number of leading papers in 
North Carolina and elsewhere. As a result of his activ- 
ity as a reporter, Greensboro became especially promi- 
nent as a news-dispensing centre, and Mr. Avery's 
reputation as a writer began to expand. On January 
I, 1900, he became city editor of the Charlotte Ob- 
server, which position he filled until his death. It was 
[xi] 



ISAAC ERWm AVERY 

while here that his unusual Uterary gifts to some extent 
gained the recognition which they really deserved. 

Personally he was the most engaging of men. Hand- 
some as Apollo, with a countenance clear-cut and pro- 
claiming in every hne his gentle birth; tall, massive of 
frame, he combined with these physical attributes a 
manner as genial as the sunshine. His cultivation was 
that of the schools, that acquired by the reading of the 
best literature and of close association with, and acute 
observation of, the great world of men. His gifts of 
conversation were equal to those with which he had 
been endowed for his profession, and thus he was with 
these, and his commanding presence, the centre of 
every group in which he found himself. His popularity 
was unbounded. In his great heart was charity for all 
mankind, and it was ever open to the cry of distress. 
None who knew him or followed him in his work will 
ever forget him or cease to mourn that his Hfe, so rich in 
promise, should have been cut off before its sun had 
nearly reached meridian. 

During his four years' sojourn in Charlotte Mr. 
Avery became thoroughly identified with the best 
phases of the city's Hfe, and was a recognized leader in 
almost every movement that promised benefit to the 
people. While he was a leader in the best social Hfe of 
the city, he was popular with aU classes. He was es- 
pecially sought after by those in trouble, whether 
friends or strangers, and though his time was generally 
taken up to a large extent with his newspaper work and 
caUs made upon him by society, he always took that 
necessary to offer counsel to those who called on him. 
[xH] 



ISAAC ERWIN AVERY 

Though exceedingly patient and genuinely anxious to 
aid all who appealed to him, he would, on rare occa- 
sions, remark with a sigh that he wished he did not 
know of so much unhappiness — had not been made to 
put himself in the places of so many people in distress. 
But this feeling was only momentary, for he would im- 
mediately turn his thoughts to other things and become 
again the possessor of that sunny disposition which 
was one of his most charming characteristics. 

While Mr. Avery was designated as "city editor" 
of the Charlotte Observer, he was in reality much more, 
for he was given freedom to criticise or commend the 
public acts of men which came under his observation, 
and while he never failed to write what he thought, he 
did it in a way that made him few enemies, even among 
those whose actions suffered most at his hand. While 
he was most widely known because of his manner of 
handling stories of human interest, either pathetic or 
humorous, as a miscellaneous news-gatherer he was 
eminently successful, thus combining gifts rarely de- 
veloped in the same nature. So famous did his writing 
become that it was not unusual for papers published 
hundreds of miles from Charlotte to reprint his reports 
of events which, written in the ordinary manner, would 
interest none save those residing in the immediate 
vicinity in which the incidents detailed occurred. An- 
other rather unusual combination noticeable in his 
newspaper work was his ability to write pathetic as 
well as humorous articles. He could do either with 
equal readiness, yet his natural propensity was toward 
that of humor — the clean, sweet and yet sharp and 
[xiii] 



ISAAC ERWm AVERY 

sparkling kind that would cause a laugh, and do more. 
In his general newspaper work, where he was confined 
to no special class of events, but had the entire field at 
his disposal, he seemed never at a loss as to how a story 
should be written, and he made remarkably few mis- 
takes. This statement is, of course, intended to con- 
vey the idea that Mr. Avery was a student of human 
nature. In fact, he seemed to know men at first sight, 
and his ability to pick out a fraudulent scheme when 
first unfolded to him — no matter how well clothed — 
was noticeable on many occasions, and the value of 
this clear-sightedness in his work as city editor was 
incalculable. 

Mr. Avery could not only gather the news which 
was on the surface, so to speak, and put it in the proper 
shape to go before an intelligent public, but he could 
readily induce people to give out particulars that are 
legitimate matters of publicity, but which are often 
withheld by those who possess the information desired. 
Therefore, he was preeminently known among his 
newspaper associates as the best of interviewers. 
Whenever an occurrence of special importance came to 
light, no matter where, the first thought in the Ob- 
server office was that Avery should be on the ground, 
and whenever it was possible to do so, he was sent at 
once to the scene. Who can ever forget his stories of 
the mill disaster in South CaroHna ? or his account of 
the Greensboro reunion? His paper received numer- 
ous requests to have him assigned to out-of-town 
meetings and other events which it was desired should 
be handled in a masterly manner, 
[xiv] 



ISAAC ERWIN AVERY 

In exercising the prerogatives of his position, it 
often fell to his lot to pass unfavorable criticism upon 
men or systems. He did this in such manner as he 
thought appropriate, and now and then a controversy 
would develop, but he invariably contented himself 
with merely stating his position clearly, being satisfied 
to let the public draw its own conclusions. On a few 
occasions his humorous references to people brought 
them to see him, to protest that they should not have 
been referred to in the manner which he had seen fit to 
employ. Here, too, he was especially gifted, for with- 
out any semblance of a compromise, he would make 
peace in a way that would sometimes provoke envy in 
his newspaper associates, and in rare instances disap- 
point them when they thought he might have to essay 
the role to which by nature he seemed especially fitted 
in a physical sense, owing to the bellicose vein into 
which the aggrieved party had brought himself on 
reading Mr. Avery's description of him. 

More significant than his work as a reporter or an 
interviewer or an editorial writer was his "A Variety 
of Idle Comment," — a department of the Observer 
which appeared on Monday mornings — and upon this 
department his fame largely rests. A man of the world, 
of contact with all sorts and conditions of humanity, 
he had closely studied his fellows and looked "quite 
through the deeds of men," A commentator upon their 
virtues and vices, their merits and weaknesses, he 
brought to every discussion the subtlest analysis, and 
with perfect, sometimes startling, fidelity, "held the 
mirror up to nature." His pen was adapted with ut- 

[XV] 



ISAAC ERWIN AVERY 

most facility to every subject he touched, and he touched 
none but to adorn or illumine it. Amiable, sweet of 
spirit, he yet might feel that a person, a custom or an 
institution called for invective or ridicule, and he was a 
torrent. Anon a child, a flower, a friendless one ap- 
pealed to him, and his pen caressed them, as his heart 
was attuned to the music of the spheres. His humor 
was exquisite; his pathos tear-compelling. He was the 
master of a rich vocabulary — the master; that is the 
word. It responded immediately to every demand 
upon it, and thus he attempted no figure that was not 
complete; he drew no picture that did not stand out on 
the canvas in colors of living light. The writer pro- 
fesses some familiarity with the contemporaneous news- 
paper writers of the South, and is sure that he in- 
dulges no exuberance of langage, that personal affection 
warps his judgment not at all, when he says that for 
original thought, for power or felicity of expression, 
Isaac Erwin Avery had not an equal among them. 



[xvi] 



CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. In and About a Newspaper Office . . i 
II. Charlotte and Her Neighbors .... 20 

III. Character Sketches 46 

IV. Negro Types 73 

V. Woman and Her World .86 

VI. Children 115 

VII. Animals 129 

VIII. Christmas 143 

IX. Southern Life and Manners .... 153 

X. Anecdotes 168 

XI. Observavions on Literature 181 

XII. Ideals of Writing and Speaking . . .194 

XIII. Music and Drama 211 

XIV. Reflections on Life and Death . . .227 
XV. Miscellany 252 



/^ 



^T^HE violets again — little wet violets, and there is the 
clean, sweet breath of spring. One would lift his 
head and drink deep — taste this newness, this grateful 
freshness that is about. There is a quicker leap of life, 
and Nature seems to stir with a kind of tenderness. 
There is deeper glow on the faces of children — easier hap- 
piness on a tiny, nestling face. . . . Girlhood comes to 
outward whiteness again — the cool, crisp sign of spring. 
And in all is the subtle charm of violets — little human, 
tremulous things, gentle as lovers whisper, pure as purity. 
Restful, quaint little flower, too — simple, appealing. . . . 
Flower to lay on a baby that, has died — to give as seemly 
tribute to womanhood — to press against the face as ease- 
ment for tired heart. . . . Such a dear, peaceful little 
flower, all alone in flower-land — emblems of the world's 
simplest and best, and waiting to mock a false face or 
adorn the beauty that comes from the soul. 




T 



IDLE COMMENTS 

CHAPTER I 

IN AND ABOUT A NEWSPAPER OFFICE 

HE public is probably now able to understand How the 
the strain that has been upon newspapers in g^^^ ^^ 



recent days. The burden of a great crisis has 
rested severely upon the daily press. Its members, part 
of the machine, have had personal feeling, also, but 
everything with them had to be subordinated to the 
ever-pressing task of conveying correct intelHgence to 
the world. 

Blessed with favorable service, The Observer was one 
of the only two papers in the State that sent out from 
their own towns early yesterday morning the news of the 
President's death. The statement is made not boast- 
fully; for the mere purpose of this writing is to explain 
what the fateful news meant to a morning paper in 
Charlotte, far removed from the more densely populated 
centres. 

The sending of the news and the manner of the send- 
[I] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

How the ing was not a little thing, and there is pardonable pride 
^^^Sent ^^ ^^^^ saying. Early in the night the despatches had 
showed that the end was to be expected at any time, 
and in preparation for the sad certainty, all matter out- 
side of press service was ordered to be rushed, and was 
rushed. 

There was but little talk in the print shop. Every 
man waited — and waited. 

At 2 o'clock the forms from which the paper is 
printed were scattered lead and iron. A fateful wire 
was to decide the exact mode of their arrangement and 
until it came there could be but indecision. And the 
time for carrying those forms to the press room, in some 
shape, was drawing nigh. 

At 2 :i7 o'clock the paper's Associated Press operator 
received the wire announcing the death of the Presi- 
dent.* The message came out to the composing room, 
and a dozen and more men breathed a prayer for time. 

The mailing clerk had received orders that would re- 
quire The Observer to issue the largest edition ever sent 
out. The staff and the mechanical force knew that the 
paper, to make the mails, must go to press an hour ear- 
lier than usual, and this demanded all that mind and 
quickness could do. 

System won out. Every man kept down nerves and 
worked for what he knew he must do and do quickly. 
The minutes passed — and the press downstairs waited. 

And the paper won out. In just exactly an hour after 
the telegram was received the forms were in the press. 
No mail was missed, and, at every point that The Oh- 

* President McKinley 
[2] 



m AND ABOUT A NEWSPAPER OFFICE 

server reached, its distribution was unprecedented in 
its history. 

To-day Mr. Howard A. Banks will cease to be man- The Night 
aging editor of The Observer and will become editor of °^ 
The Evening Chronicle. For eleven years he has done 
most of his work at night and his best work after mid- 
night ; but now he is privileged to eat breakfast and la- 
bor with a work-a-day world. He will join the throng 
that becomes drowsy at noon and shakes its head when 
it looks at the toilers of the night. Mr, Banks is to be a 
white man indeed, and he welcomes the change — doubt- 
fully. He must learn to become a-weary at an hour 
that seems too soon — must learn to sleep too quickly. 
He must overcome the habits of the long years. He will 
do this, for man is an adaptable animal and yields easily 
to change. But, mayhap, he will not live so long that he 
can forget the charm that was while a world slumbered. 
He has been part of a. coatless crowd that loitered on the 
deserted streets and feasted and lied cheerily every 
morning just before dayhght. 'Twas such a little crowd. 
Month after month and year after year there were the 
same men who touched elbows, felt a common excite- 
ment, got closer together — found intense existence in 
the great stillness. Aye, Banks will be a white man, but 
he will not forget. Night work eats into the brain and 
body. 'Tis fascinating. There is charm in the late, 
quiet hours, in the view of a resting city, in the fine, 
loud silence of the night. Peace broods, and here is a 
time for thought. Night! Ah, night breaks too often 
into day. It is the blessed boon that comes after the 

[3] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

fretfulness and bother that one sees under sunlight. It 
is too precious for sleep; and it is sweetest and purest 
after midnight. But Banks will try to forget this. He 
has broken the ranks and shed his raiment of Bohemi- 
anism. He, as good a comrade as ever watched the 
sun rise, may learn to pity the children of the night, 
though he knows they wish for no pity. He is the first 
deserter — the first to become civiHzed, and his going 
seems almost as if someone or something had died. 
There is no one who has a readier sympathy than Banks 
— no one who has such a profound appreciation of pie 
at 4 o'clock in the morning. 

The It is strange to note the contrasting elements in one 
Foreman ^^^^ man. Look at Dick Allen, the red-headed fore- 
man up stairs. Whenever he wants to give himself a 
treat he sends over to the restaurant and buys a pickled 
pig's foot and a cream puff. He must always have the 
two things together and at once. They appeal to both 
sides of his nature. The pig's foot soothes the part of 
him that chews tobacco and swears at the devil; while 
his love for cream puffs is akin to the thing in him that 
sets him to roaming, as a disciple of Izaak Walton, by 
the side of httle rivers. The foreman is a contradiction 
and knows it. He is the sort of a man who hkes both 
garlic and silk suspenders. Mr. Howard A. Banks, of 
the paper, has a fashion of throwing open his window 
at eventide in order that he may be fully bathed in the 
glories of the dying sun. "And I want to say, Mr. 
Banks," said the foreman, "that since you have been 
looking so much at these sunsets I am working me up a 

[4] 



IN AND ABOUT A NEWSPAPER OFFICE 

taste for the things myself." That was a cream puff 
mood — the foreman at his highest sentimental ebb ; and 
yet even then he would have been far more appreciative 
of the sunset if he had held a stout pig's foot in his right 
hand. Such is the composition of Dick Allen, foreman. 

In the biographies of some of the modern big men The 
the statement is frequently made that "he began life as ^^^ °^ 
a newsboy," the suggestion being that the man not 
only commenced at the bottom rung of the ladder, but 
that he surprised everybody by his rise from such an 
humble caUing. The truth is that the lad who sticks to 
the work of carrying papers for a morning newspaper 
shows grit enough to accomplish anything. Every 
morning the carriers troop in here about 4 o'clock with 
sleep still heavy in their eyes. Summer and winter it is 
the same; they never fail ; and yet they are little bits of 
chaps between 10 and 14 years of age. It is no small 
thing, and it is more than a man's work, to leave a com- 
fortable bed before daybreak and go out into the dark- 
ness, and toil. The newsboy is a most reliable em- 
ployee, and the thing in him that keeps him at his ardu- 
ous task generally makes him a successful man in the 
long run. The young men in Charlotte and elsewhere 
who have been newsboys have done well in business 
life. They had pluck to begin with, and their training 
as paper carriers equipped them with the right sort of 
stuff for a struggle. 

* * * 

There is a little bit of a chap who gets up early in the 
morning and sells this paper, and he is around again in 

[5] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The the afternoon to sell The Chronicle. He is a serious- 
Newsboy gyg^ -^Qj who doesn't seem to enjoy life very much, but 
he is a hard worker and makes a good deal of money 
out of the sales of his papers. He is devoted to his moth- 
er and wishes to take her every cent he makes, and he 
does this except when his father gets his money and 
spends it for drink. He cuffed the child on the streets a 
few days ago, led him home and emptied his pockets, 
and forced him to appear here next morning, shame- 
faced because he couldn't make a settlement for his pa- 
pers and was too loyal to tell what had happened. This 
sort of treatment is almost an every-day occurrence, 
and it might as well be stopped. There is no law to act 
in the matter, but the next time the father mistreats that 
child or steals money from him to spend in drink, the 
writer, who will learn the truth, is going to print the 
name of the father and indulge in the nauseating task 
of dissecting him as a species of vampire parent. The 
father will read this and will understand exactly what 
is meant. He can very easily go to work and let that boy 
alone. Otherwise he will be exposed to the public for 
being the sort of brute that he really is. 
* * * 

Mr. Frank Johnston, 12 years old, seller of newspa- 
pers and denizen of The Observer press room, goes over 
to the restaurant and quarrels if his poached eggs are not 
, cooked to his notion. He throws down a dollar in pay- 
ment and carelessly jams the change into his pocket. 
And the man who watched him found a thing that was 
wrong. Mr. Johnston has grown old too quickly. He 
has learned the sweetness of independence, but he is 

[6] 



IN AND ABOUT A NEWSPAPER OFFICE 

missing the rarest joy of living. For now there is no 
one to give Mr. Jolmston a quarter, and a quarter 
would not quicken his pulse one beat if 'twere given him. 
Despite his tender years, he can never have the most 
hallowed experience of childhood. To be given a quar- 
ter on a Saturday, say! To feel the keen little thrill in 
the blood; to trot down the walkway — trying not to 
run — to face the open street and the stores with a whole 
quarter in one's pocket! Man, do you remember? 
And have you ever been satisfied with any amount of 
money that you had except just that childhood's quar- 
ter ? It meant mental revelry, the great, beautiful gloat 
— the sureness of purchasing the coveted things in the 
world. It meant transcendent cause for envy — an ad- 
mitted superiority over all the other little boys who 
hadn't quarters. A quarter marked the chiefest epoch 
in life; it showed you to be a bit of a king with a chat- 
tering troop in your train — unquartered subjects who 
gazed on you admiringly, wistfully. Your small heart 
well nigh burst with exultation — surging so in its fresh 
pcean of bliss. 

Ah, you lose, Mr. Johnston. God bless you, Mr. 
Johnston, you have lost. 

Never was such an eel as the devil caught the other The Devil 
night. The red-headed foreman, who is an authority on ^^ 
such matters, said so, and the fat boy who attends to 
the engine down in the basement swore that he had 
caught eels from Town Creek to the Catawba and he 
had never seen such a fine fish. The incident marked, 
an epoch in the life of the devil. His name is Van 

[7] 



IDLE COMMENTS 
The Devil something; he is any age under sixteen, and he goes 
^^ Eel 1^0^^ t*^ ^is mother at the break of day. He is the only 
child-thing among a lot of men who feed on nerves af- 
ter midnight; and his big, pathetic eyes and cheerful 
face rebuke all impatience or bad language. He has 
never known anything but a print shop and his mother, 
and has had no experiences that were treasurable until 
the foreman took him fishing and he connected with the 
eel. After the quick, sharp wrestle on the side of Briar 
Creek the devil laid down his can of worms and his short 
pole with the twine string attached and plodded back 
to the office. 'Rastus was his sub for the night, but for 
three hours the devil and his eel exercised the preroga- 
tives of the managing editor with right of way over As- 
sociated Press stuff and murder specials. In aU his 
young Hfe this was the first time that the devil had done 
anything that attracted attention. He was the central 
figure in the shop, which congratulated him as heartily 
as if he had sand-bagged a whale, and he was so thor- 
oughly happy that he almost cried. The eel travelled 
everywhere in the building — was dragged through the 
coal dust down stairs, came in cold, clammy touch with 
editorial copy, and at one time was in imminent danger 
of being devoured by a linotype machine; but the fish 
and the devil came off triumphant. They finally went 
out on the streets to be saluted by the hack drivers and 
the policemen, who know the devil and his people. And 
everybody was gracious enough to say that of all the 
eels that were ever caught in the whole world, nobody 
had ever caught such a grand specimen as that carried 
by the devil. 

[8J 



m AND ABOUT A NEWSPAPER OFFICE 

It was a big, beautiful night for the devil, and he rev- 
elled in his fame. At 4 o'clock in the morning he was 
curled up in a chair in front of the restaurant with the 
eel stretched across his knees. His hand clutched the 
stiffened body, and as he dozed he waked now and then 
to gaze with rapture into dead fish eyes. At the first 
streak of day the devil trudged home to his mother, with 
the calm of a great peace surging through his tired, 
elated body. 

The city editor of the New York Sun was once asked The 
to define news. After some thought he said : Problem ^ 

"If a dog with a tin can tied to his tail runs down 
Broadway the incident is worth only a few lines, but if 
a dog with a tin can tied to his tail walks down Broad- 
way the thing is worth a column." 

You see the idea. 'Tis the unusual happening that 
is attractive in the news world; and, certainly, the ac- 
tion of the four young women was unusual enough. 
* * * 

Beg pardon for talking shop; but did you ever think 
about the disadvantages of trying to write interesting 
stuff in a place hke this ? Oh, Charlotte is a good, big 
town, and the living here is probably more interesting 
than in any other place in the South of the same size, 
but there is very little that transpires here day after day 
that is important enough to demand scare head lines. 
For days the bottom drops out of everything. Bill 
Jones goes to Greensboro on a business trip. Dr. Stagg 
returns to Birmingham. The recorder catches a crap- 
shooter. The gentleman who had his appendix re- 

[9] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The moved is improving gradually. Crops are worse than 
ftobfem ^^^^' Somebody buys a gold mine. Delicious refresh- 
ments were served at another party. More about the 
union depot. You know how it runs, don't you? It's 
orful. There are no assignments as there are in the big 
cities. Nobody considerately murders anybody else, and 
people simply won't embezzle or elope often enough. 
Yet, in the face of all this, the reporter has got to stump 
around and rack his brain in kicking up something 
that will interest somebody. 

The test is keener and meaner than in the big cities. 
Leg work allows a man to exhaust the news field with- 
out overmuch difficulty, and then he has to see in hap- 
penings things that other people don't see and build 
stories out of nothing, or with bare ideas as skeletons. 

Hi H^ * 

A cub reporter here is far more interesting than a 
young hyena. He gets a fresh pad, makes spencerian 
notes, and after carefully sharpening his pencils he ex- 
tends welcome to every person who comes to town and 
sheds a tear over all who depart. He spends an hour 
in relating that somebody who died has passed away 
with the tide and was a consistent member of the 
church and the most beloved man that ever was. Then, 
the cub reporter, conscious of having done his duty, 
waits for assignments. Assignments! The only regu- 
lar kind of assignment that can be given a reporter in a 
place of this size is to say: "There are 30,000 people 
here. All of them can talk and some of them think. 

[10] 



IN AND ABOUT A NEWSPAPER OFFICE 

Mix with them, think on your own account, and keep The 
your eyes very, very wide open." That's the feature of proj^leni ^ 
the game here. The system is relentlessly simple. The 
cub reporter can learn to see or he can't learn to see. 
He is absorptive or unreceptive ; he brings every scat- 
tered word or idea into account, or he gets no impres- 
sion from the Hfe about him. He can fasten on the 
quahty of interest and he can put it on paper, or he 
can't. By an indefinable standard he defines his own 
worth, and he will rise or drop out of the game alto- 
gether. 

* * * 

Take the four women, for instance. They could not 
fail to be a downright blessing to a newspaper in a town 
that is so limited in newspaper opportunities as Char- 
lotte. They were respectable women and pretty, and 
the minute they passed those men in front of the Cen- 
tral Hotel and said " Good evening!" they were worth a 
column. They could not have done anything that 
made them worth less than a scare head and a column. 
They might have been arrested; they might have es- 
caped arrest; they might have gone up in a balloon; or 
they might have taken the next car for home, but when 
they electrified a hundred people by speaking to half a 
dozen they had earned 1,200 words in a newspaper. 
Two newspaper men saw the women. One reporter 
was interested personally and waited for some out-and- 
out notorious sensation. He was disappointed in this, 
and when asked for his story about the occurrence re- 
phed : " It was nothing. Nothing happened. I couldn't 
get their names, and they got home all right." He is a 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The good enough man, but his eyes failed to see. The other 
Probfem ^^^y who is using the story for illustration and viewed 
the whole incident merely as one element in the matter 
of wage-earning, dropped everything when he saw the 
women, and from that time until he sharpened his pen- 
cil at his desk he formed paragraphs in his head. There 
was nothing else to do. If the dog walks, walks, mind 
you, he is worth anything. . . . The unusual thing had 
occurred. If Col. Wilhe Phifer would quit going to 
Stout-on-the-Seaboard, he would be worth half a col- 
umn a day. If Osmond Barringer would act like other 
people, he would be a better space-killer than the cotton 
market. If Col. Walter Henry wore a shirt-waist in- 
stead of his long frock coat, which he is supposed to 
sleep in, he'd be worth a page. 
* * * 

And, it is repeated, the cub reporter will see or he 
won't see. Happenings — you can't depend upon hap- 
penings. In the long, wearisome run everything de- 
pends just upon the seeing, the understanding and the 
telling. Red Buck's brother Bob was up in Hunters- 
ville a few years ago and he was moved to emulate Red 
Buck and write a piece for the paper. He saw two 
snakes fight, and one of the belhgerents, a king snake, 
throttled the other snake. Quoth Bob in a cramped, 
boyish hand: "That king snake certainly done his 
duty." The communication called for an editorial and 
a statement from the Old Man that Bob could go on 
the free list for five years if he wanted to. Bob had 
blundered on something unique, and, no matter if he 
had blundered, he deserved his reward. Red Buck 

[12] 



IN AND ABOUT A NEWSPAPER OFFICE 

himself has won success in the reportorial world because 
his restless eyes are always open to see and he analyzes 
closely the utterance of every man. 

The impulse to write things that should not be writ- Unprintable 
ten is one of the most fearsome problems in the news- appei"°gs 
paper business. Murders, hangings, hotel building, 
tea parties, fights, industrial deals — these and a lot of 
other matters that are told in the open are chronicled 
as a matter of course, but the newspaper man pauses, 
trembling, before the things that happen and yet are 
discussed in a whisper. 

These are the subjects that you lower your voice to 
speak of, and you know that if what you were saying 
were overheard by a certain person you might get your 
head cracked. Not that you are alone in your knowl- 
edge — oh, no. You are quite sure that a lot of men and 
half the women in town are telling the rest of the popu- 
lation the same sensational story that is related in your 
undertone. 

Talk of this kind might make a lurid, scare-head 
story, but, usually, it cannot be touched even with a 
single guarded sentence. Here enters the possible 
temptation of the newspaper man. The writer has 
heard in the club or hotels or elsewhere talk on matters 
that made his hair bristle with excitement, and then he 
has had to come here and write that the chamber of 
com^merce had postponed its meeting to some other 
night or that Col. Willie Phifer had spent yesterday at 
Stout-on- the- Seaboard, He didn't crave to pubUsh 
scandal or risque gossip, but he knew a thing or two 
[13] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Unprintable that would interest everybody, and he had to tell a tale 
Happenings ^^^^ ^-gj^^ jj^^^j.^^^ nobody. 

The unprintable happenings would be read by the 
world, no matter if the world's eyes protruded in horror, 
and nobody knows this any better than a newspaper 
man. Sometimes the danger line between the ques- 
tionable and the unquestionable is not clearly defined, 
and in the hurry of a print shop there must occasionally 
come an inclination to err in favor of sensation. The 
writer is positive that he could get out one issue of this 
paper that would be read and re-read by everybody in the 
country, but he would never assist in getting out another 
issue. He'd be killed by a dozen or so different people, 
though all that he had written would have been true. 

Of course this would be going the limit, but this side 
of that there are all sorts of pitfalls and dangers. The 
public, you know, thinks that a man on a newspaper 
is valued because he knows what to write, but the 
truth is, he holds his job because he ordinarily knows 
what not to write. A paragraph below this would con- 
tain a dozen lines, could relate an occurrence and a hv- 
ing truth that would cause 30,000 people to sit right 
straight up and jabber all at once, but the writer would 
demand a clean, fair start for the other side of the 
world before that paragraph was printed. 
* * * 

Once a paper owned a cub reporter who found noth- 
ing in the law building, court house or depots, and then 
he listened to the uppermost topic of conversation at 
the square. He came to the shop and wrote what he 
had heard — a lot of simple facts that would have sold 

[I4l 



IN AND ABOUT A NEWSPAPER OFFICE 

more papers than the burning of the Central Hotel. The 
story was killed, but the next article by the reporter, 
which averred that the price of cotton seed in the local 
market was rapidly rising, was duly pubhshed in the 
paper. The reporter is no longer here. He didn't know 
the difference between printable and unprintable stuff, 
and therefore he was more dangerous than a dynamite 

bomb. 

* * * 

Ideas? Imagination? No use! All gone with the 
heat. A story that seemed clever a while ago proved as 
intractable as Mr. D. Allen Tedder's comical tale about 
a sensation at the Young Peoples' Baptist Union meet- 
ing. Another lynching, or an elopement, or a sizable 
fight at the square — any of these would have been such 
a boon, but there was an absolute lack of enterprise. 
. . . Did you ever pick up a pen and write half a sen- 
tence, and then rest your face on your hand and dream 
about nothing in the world — or at least nothing that is 
writable or printable? Well, it's like that here — now. 
Speaking confidentially, these words are just space- 
killers. One of two things is sure to happen inside the 
next two minutes. The writer will either become reck- 
less and write something that he knows he ought not to 
write and has been crazy to write for two weeks, or else 
he will avoid temptation by strolling over and asking 
the Old Man to walk to the restaurant and have a pie. 

A poem in yesterday's Observer dealt critically with a "Words, 
certain class of adjectives that are overworked for social -y^or^gS* 
purposes, and was in the nature of a plea for new 
[15] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

"Words, descriptive words to take the place of "function," 
Words'" "dainty," "delicious," "deHghtful," and other pink-tea 
terms. As a protest against tiresome iteration the poem 
took safe ground for criticism, but it did not suggest — 
for it could not suggest — substitutes for the hackneyed 
words. The burden of the wearisome repetition falls 
most heavily upon the reporter, and yet a correct use of 
his own tools leaves him helpless in the rut. There 
must be a "function" as a synonym for party, enter- 
tainment or reception, and all of these must, in one way 
or another, be dainty, or delightful, or deHcious, or 
charming. There must be "beauty" in a wedding; 
grace in every bride; the ceremony must be impressive; 
and the presents must be numerous and handsome. 
"Pleasure" and "enjoyment" are as inevitable as smi- 
lax and candelabra. In the social department of a pa- 
per, the worn words must move in a circle, doing service 
overtime and wherever men and women gather in dress 
clothes. The terms are fixed as fate, as inexorable as the 
laws of nature, and they do duty at the banquet of the 
princess and at the Sunday dinner party of the milk- 
maid. 

It is not given to the writer of social items to do origi- 
nal or sincere work habitually. Occasionally a spec- 
tacular entertainment of the Bradley-Martins in New 
York or a new-game party in the smaller towns allows 
latitude and imported platitudes in description, but 
"en regie" and "fin de siecle" and "recherche" are by- 
the-way pyrotechnics, and for nearly all time in a big 
cycle the reporter's pencil is pointed at — ^just "charm- 
ing" and "delicious" and "delightful." 

[i6] 



IN AND ABOUT A NEWSPAPER OFFICE 

A dead line blocks the way out of the thralldom of "Words, 
words. Through long usage the adjectives must con- -fords'" 
tinue in use ; and it is a daring spirit who is simple and 
direct in his phrase. When Mrs. B., a prominent so- 
ciety woman, entertains, it may be presupposed that 
she gave a course dinner, that everybody had enough to 
eat, and that pleasure was rampant, yet these things 
must be said, and in saying them it is not easy to bar 
words like "charming," "delightful," "dainty." The 
reporter may seek for other verbiage, he may cudgel his 
poor brain for tricks of inversion and novel, piquant 
speech, but in the long run his intellect will be socially 
swamped and "charming" will again rise up and rest 
before "function." 

* * * 

And why not? Why not welcome the old words — 
dear, social levellers which bless the hospitality of the 
rich and the poor alike? "The bride, fair to see, wore 
a diamond sunburst, the gift of the groom. She looked 
regal, charming, graceful, winsome. ..." Let them 
all stand. The only proper way to tell a thing is the 
simplest way, and yet the world looks leniently upon a 
speech that must make every "personality" "delight- 
ful" and every "function" a "decided social success." 
And " charming" ? Why, " charming" is the best of the 
lot; it is so easy, so natural, to say "She looked charm- 
ing as she recited her marriage vows," or "She gave a 
charming card party," or "We hope that the charming 
young lady from Concord will visit the city again ere 
long. " Aren't these averments all right ? Mr. Manta- 
lini, the most "delicious" of social frauds, always 
2 [17] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

played a trump card when he called a woman a " demned 
chawmer." 

* * * 

There comes to memory the pitiable fate of one re- 
porter who sought to be too simple and original. De- 
scribing the costumes that were worn at a big party, he 
said: "Mrs, A, had on nothing that was remarkable." 
The printer man found a period too many, and the 
sentence appeared in the paper: "Mrs. A. had on 
nothing. That was remarkable." 

* * * 

The Certainly hope you won't think anything personal is 
°"m^ intended, any way. The writer is tired of being jacked 
up about abstract pleasantries. Once he ventured to 
say something in a jesting way about the particular 
brand of society that likes to nibble oranges on the 
streets, and the next day he got icy glares from half a 
dozen people who had really learned to eat ice cream 
with a fork and olives without a fork several years ago. 
Words — poor, misused and misunderstood words — are 
ever falling about and striking in the wrong place, 
causing hearts to quake or grow hot; and half the uni- 
verse, thinking on idle speech, curses the other half all 
the time. Generahties become personalities in a ser- 
mon, or on a printed page, or after passing the second 
mouth on the streets, and you can't be an independent 
pigmy and slur at mankind without getting the credit 
of trying to jab the pruning fork into your neighbor 
around the corner. And, verily, that's what you are 
trying to do no matter how much you may deny it. No 
man ever uttered a general criticism without remem- 

[i8] 



IN AND ABOUT A NEWSPAPER OFFICE 

bering the color of another man's eyes. All Athenians 
are liars, say you, and you see only Bill Athenian, who 
said a malicious thing about you. Life is a poor, weary 
game and people are tiresome, say you, and through 
the immovable mist you are gazing upon the faint out- 
line of one woman — and only one woman. 

"No big, pompous tombstones, no high-sounding " Copy all 
epitaphs for me," said A. B. WilHams, editor of The 
Richmond News-Leader. "All I want 'em to put above 
my head is : 

"'Copy all in.'" 

To me that expresses everything — the end of the 
game. You know what it means, of course. At the 
end of so many weary, weary nights I have scrawled 
the words as the finale of toil and as the good-by to my 
men. 'Copy all in' — and sleep! That is all — the last 
of life, and then — the rest. 



In 



[19] 



CHAPTER II 

CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

A View from The thing to do for the stranger within the gates is to 
the Tower ]-)etake him to the tower of the D. A. Tompkins Company- 
building. The citizen of Charlotte who thinks he has 
kept pace with its growth and knows how big the town 
is ought to go up there and have his eyes opened. The 
big, square structure, with observatory platform under 
its very roof, holds its head above all the steeples and 
domes in the city. It looks high from the street, but a 
realization of its loftiness is to be gained only by a trip 
to its top, and really the ascent to the Tompkins tower 
is one of the treats of Charlotte. 

The tower is equal in height to a fourteen-story 
building and the ascent up to within four floors of the 
top is made by an electric elevator. All visitors desir- 
ing to make the ascent are met by a polite official in 
the store room on the first floor, where they register their 
names. There an attendant is assigned them, who 
accompanies them to the elevator and to the top 
and designates all the interesting objects in the land- 
scape. 

The view from the tower is an extraordinarily fine 
[20] 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

one. North, south, east and west, it covers every street A View from 

and house in Charlotte, and the suburban towns are as •'■o^fir 

plain as pictures on canvas. Out over the town on all 

sides the range of vision extends for distances, varying 

according to topography, from twelve to thirty miles. 

One building near Davidson College is clearly indicated, 

as are also farmhouses about Sharon church. The view 

of the mountains is surprisingly fine. Not only are a 

dozen or more individual peaks clearly outhned, but 

back of them and towering high, but in a paler blue, is 

seen the Blue Ridge range. The peaks and the range 

are visible to the naked eye. 

The best view of the mountains is to be obtained in 
the forenoon, when the sun shines upon them, but at 
any hour of the day the view from the Tompkins tower 
is an interesting one. At first the visitor is struck with 
the oddity of the roof effect of Charlotte, and next with 
the intensified volume of the roar of traffic. The bang 
and rattle of a loaded truck passing in the street below 
seems tenfold greater at this height than it does on 
the street level. The clatter of horses' hoofs and 
the exhaust of steam engines come up with piercing 
keenness. 

The charm of the view, however, is the picture of 
moving Hfe, the living current of people and vehicles, 
the smoke from the factories and the exhaust of the 
railroad engines on the four sides of the town. The 
long, curved trestle from Fourth street to Mint street, . 
with the shifting engines going to and fro over it, is 
strikingly like a section of elevated railroad. In what- 
ever direction one looks, the horizon is blotted with 

[21] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

&. View from factory smoke. Closer in on the north, south, east 
Tower ^^^ ^^^^ ^-^q black puffs from railroad engines is 
pierced by the ascending columns of exhaust steam. 
A beautiful picture of a busy and thrifty city is framed 
in the white and black of the steam and smoke of 
industry. 

This view of Charlotte and surrounding country is 
entrancing in itself, but if the visitor happens to be in 
the tower in the late afternoon, there is injected in the 
landscape to the south something that is worth looking 
at. It is the coming of the local train from Atlanta, If 
the afternoon is still, there will be seen on the western 
horizon, rounding King's Mountain, a puff of black 
smoke which slowly rises, spreads and hangs in the air. 
Then another will rise in front of it, and a short distance 
nearer still another. That is the trail of the incoming 
train. The black smoke is emitted as the train is com- 
ing up the grades, and when it is first seen the cars are 
perhaps two miles in front of it. The course of the 
train can be outUned by the overhanging clouds of 
smoke until suddenly the engine darts into view 
through the deep cut on the Dowd farm two miles dis- 
tant. It is down grade there, and the train comes flying 
into sight with black smoke and white steam streaming 
back Hke ribbons over the roofs of the cars. In a few 
seconds the whole train comes into view as it crosses 
the big trestle to the west of the city, then it is alternately 
hidden as it goes through cuts and under the foliage of 
trees, until three blocks away it is seen creeping into the 
train yard. For many minutes after it has reached the 
depot the route of the train is outhned in the western 

[22] 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

skies by a lazily rising, sinuous cloud of smoke. The 
Charlotte citizen who has not been on top of the Tomp- 
kins tower does not know Charlotte at all. 

The unconscious action of the inhabitants, and not a The Ear- 
flattering census or a few more milHons in investments, ^^ s o a 
indicates the transformation of a place from a town 
into a city. By virtue of certain unmistakable tokens 
Charlotte has passed through the transition stage and 
has become a sure-enough city. A strange woman 
wearing a Parisian gown, her body at a forward in- 
cline of forty-five degrees, and a poodle in evening dress, 
may parade the streets without causing a block in 
traffic or bringing all the shopkeepers to their windows. 
Recently a revival and a ball were in progress on the 
same night; and the city officials do not drop their 
work and follow a brass band, Residents who travel 
abroad and return are no longer surrounded at the 
square and eagerly questioned about the private life of 
the King or the Pope. Each street offers, without un- 
due vanity, tailor-made and hand-embroidered exhib- 
its ; and a whole week, instead of a day, may be required 
to carry a choice bit of scandal into every part of the 
town. And the preachers no longer attend courts; 
plenty of people stay away from funerals; you may 
dodge a creditor for days without remaining in hiding; 
the country mules do not shy at automobiles or silk 
hats walking around on week days ; every other woman 
doesn't speak to every other baby that she meets, and 
no one thinks about fainting when a Charlotte woman 
goes off to get a Ph.D. vocal degree and comes home 
[23] , 



IDLE COMMENTS 

singing in a high Dutch or broken Eye-talian. In fine, 
Charlotte has all the ear-marks of a city. 

Excursion- The excursionists had possession of the town last 
week and, apparently, were the happiest people in the 
place. Most of them came from the thinly settled 
wayback districts, and when they landed here they 
found novelty and pleasure in each step of investiga- 
tion. They fixed a new valuation on the street cars and 
on the smooth excellence of the macadamized roads; 
they inspected the old Spanish cannon in front of the 
post office with greedy curiosity; in pleased way they 
clustered around the iron slab at Independence Square ; 
they read, with eager interest, the names on the monu- 
ment in front of the court house; they gazed with awe 
upon the ponderous proportions of Col, Tom Black, of 
the police force; they became satiated epicures at the 
soda fountains ; and they returned home tired but filled 
with content. 

One was allowed to see the perfect excursion, which 
can never leave a city or carry city folks. The ideal ex- 
cursionist owns no Panama hat or private bath tub, and 
he is unacquainted with the fascination of a highball. 
He demands nothing as of right and has no unflattering 
comparison to make; and he is deHghted and satisfied 
with all he sees and gets. He is youthful, with the 
chief capacity for tending cows, or he is the toiHng head 
of a household, with scant knowledge of the world out- 
side his own country. The excursion represents a new 
phase of living or marks an epoch in his life ; it stands 
for a great want that comes but seldom in a lifetime; 

[24] 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

and the dusty ride and the sights and the strange mul- 
titude at the end of the journey appease the want and 
fill the traveler with new sensations and impressions. 

To fully appreciate the joys of an excursion one 
must have lived in a small town and owned a very par- 
ticular best Sunday suit of clothes. Then an excursion 
is glorified like Christmas, and, anticipating it, the 
blood quickens in the veins and sleep does not come 
easily. The excursionist goes forth with the pleasure- 
heart, and no untoward event can debar perfect happi- 
ness. He is healthy enough to feel the great Want, and 
the hurly-burly and unfamiliar excitements gratify the 
simple bigness of his wish. The denizens of the place 
that he visits may look upon him in an amused or com- 
passionate way, but he knows, and the gods know, that 
he is blessed by the gods. If the pleasure that he found 
right here were infectious the whole town would fall to 
laughing and shaking hands, and there would be token 
of the millennium of peace and good-will. An excursion 
is a twentieth-century trip to Wonderland, which offers 
weariness and boredom to the inhabitants only. 

You notice that Charlotte people are going to Eu- Cosmopoli- 
rope. For a long time they did most of their sightseeing ^^^^^ 
in New York, but ten or fifteen years ago a resident 
spent three months in Germany and came back speaking 
broken English, and in recent years another resident 
returned from England, saying, "I seen the Queen." 
Since then the exodus to Europe has been steady, and 
it is singular that as travel increases there is less talk in 
Mecklenburg of the wonders of the foreign lands. The 
[25] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

grand trip has become a matter-of-fact, every-day sort 
of a proposition, and the village query, "What did you 
see while you were gone?" seldom has birth here. But 
the injection of a be-travelled cosmopolitan element 
into the community is already doing good. It strikes a 
blow at conceit, narrowness and the provincialism that 
is satisfied to sit eternally in a small area and judge 
surely and dogmatically the world and the things of the 
world. Every man who is not a fool is a better citizen 
after he goes far enough from his bailiwick to realize 
his smallness and utter ignorance. 

Mr. The scene at the depot when the President's train 
I 0^10^16 P^'^^c<^ i^ was an animated one. The crowd filled the 
train yard from end to end, and the number of ladies 
present was a conspicuous feature. Although ample 
notice had been given of the coming of the President's 
train, no arrangement had been made for his reception 
by the depot people. It was the same old Southern de- 
pot, with baggage and express trucks here and there, 
cars standing on the tracks in the yard, and the same 
dim, dingy and gloomy lights casting their shadows 
over it all. When the President's train came to a stop, 
the rear coach was far below the depot and several de- 
tached passenger coaches were on a track alongside of 
it. The crowd had to squeeze between these cars and 
the President's coach, and an immovable jam ensued. 
Only the few who could crowd into the narrow space 
were fortunate enough to either see or hear the Presi- 
dent. 
Mr. Roosevelt went to the rear platform as soon as his 
[26] 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

train came to a stop and seemed to take in the situation Mr. 

at a glance. He leaned out and looked forward over in°chibtte 

the great mass of people. Holding his silk hat in his 

right hand and waving command with his left, he said : 

"Now come along here, quick. You people who are in 

front move around this way to the rear and right of the 

car. Move along! Step lively! That's it!" The crowd 

surged about until the President saw that there was not 

a foot more of space. " Well," he said, " this seems to be 

about the best I can do. I am afraid if I keep on I'll 

spend all my time trying to get the crowd arranged and 

not get to saying anything, after all." 

"What about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Inde- 
pendence?" some one in the crowd shouted. 

Quick as a flash, and in tones as clear as a bell, came 
the response: "The Mecklenburg Declaration of In- 
dependence is all right." 

"Ladies and gentlemen," continued the President, 
"I cannot express the pleasure it has given me to meet 
the people of the South, and I can scarcely find words 
to express my appreciation of the reception that has 
been accorded me. Some one has just now asked me 
what I think of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Inde- 
pendence. Here in Charlotte was made the first Decla- 
ration of Independence ever made in the United States." 
The President then spoke of the spirit that animated 
the people of this section in the early days of the coun- 
try and of the part they took in the revolutionary strug- 
gles. He praised the patriotic spirit of the South as evi- 
denced in the Spanish-American war, and singled out 
North Carolina as worthy of particular credit. "In 
[27] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Charleston yesterday," he said, "I reviewed your pro- 
visional regiment of troops, and it was as fine a body of 
soldiers as I ever saw." 

Just at this point the President's train began moving 
out. Abruptly breaking off his speech, he shouted so 
that almost everybody in the train yard could hear: "I 
want to say this: During the Cuban campaign I once 
had occasion to select twenty sharpshooters. Two of 
the twenty were North Carolinians!" 

These were the President's final words. As the train 
pulled out, Mr. Roosevelt leaned over the railing of the 
platform, waving his hat and bowing. Mrs. Roosevelt 
stood by his side, smihng in thorough delight at the cor- 
diality of her husband's reception in Charlotte. 

In Sunday Standing at the square yesterday in the forenoon, one 
saw nearly all Charlotte going to church. 'Twas a 
grand sight — a well-dressed multitude. The place is 
still small enough for every one to know the Sunday 
clothes of every one else ; and yesterday there was a pleas- 
ant rustle of new silks and the creak of new shoes. Sun- 
day clothes! They're martyrdom up to fifteen years of 
age; an embarrassment until 20; a joy until 30; and 
after that just a necessity and a disillusionment. Sun- 
day clothes mean the big, hallowed moments of youth 
and the philosophy of the after years. The hght-gray 
suit is as the vital presence of the fresh glories of spring- 
time, the quick-pulsed blood and the faint perfume of a 
slender girl's hair; but the light-gray suit blushes under 
the cool glare of the long, dark, dignified coat, which 
has ceased to garb pleasure and vanity and looks scorn- 

[28] 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

fully on the pampering of frail tabernacles. Sunday 
clothes pick up the happiness that is lost when one 
ceases to go barefooted; they contain or reflect the 
rarest happiness until eyes lose lustre, and then Sunday 
clothes go to funerals — all sorts of funerals. 
* * * 

But 

"Manhood has no joys so lustrous; 
Nothing that so gladsome seems — " 

As the first pair of trousers. 

The Southern Manufacturers' Club in this city is Music at 
making some odd experiments in music. It has a piano ® ^ ^" 
and a Cecilian, and gets pretty much all the latest music 
by a system of swapping old tunes for new tunes. About 
fifty members of the club keep the Cecilian working 
from 8 o'clock in the morning until 1 1 :30 at night. It 
has been discovered that everybody gets tired of even 
the best pieces of modern music in about ten days. The 
members have run the gamut of all the light operas, rag- 
time music, and the most celebrated output of modern 
composers, and always retire each of these inside a 
fortnight. Isadore Rush sang "Egypt," and the club 
sent a special delivery for that song. It was played 704 
times the first day it arrived, a fortnight ago, but was 
played only once yesterday. This week "Egypt" will 
die. In a word, the Southern Manufacturers' Club, a 
representative organization of this cultured section, has 
decided that no piece of music that has been written in 
the last four or five years is worth Hving. The CeciHan 
has tried almost everything, and it has made that piano 
[29] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

do more hard work than any other piano ever did in a 
quarter of a century. Up there where a man betrays a 
soulful expression by the movement of the muscles in 
the calves of his legs, only three pieces of music have 
been selected to live, the "Intermezzo," "La Paloma," 
and "The Last Rose of Summer." 
* * * 

Beds of In front of the residences on the principal streets — or 
Vio ets ^Yl the streets — in this city there are Uving violet beds ; 
and it is to be hoped that the town will never grow so 
large or so citified as to prevent the growing of these 
tender, country violets right in its very heart. They 
are, in some way, a symbol of daintiness, freshness, 
purity. They best become a maiden or a womanly 
woman, and they are a silent rebuke to a woman who 
is bad. And one knows, somehow, that a woman who 
goes out and fusses over violet beds and really loves the 
little human things has the right kind of a soul. There 
is no reason for saying this ; it is another one of the just- 
so things. All other flowers are — flowers, but violets 
grow and whisper in the innocent realm that can only 
be seen by a baby's eyes and are the first offering in the 
kingdom where love must give the right gift to love. 

Small The small towns in this State are interesting affairs. 

Towns pgQpig living in them have such an unlimited amount 
of things to talk about. In the bigger places folk some- 
times get tired of conveying inteUigence to other folks, 
but in little towns people cease conversation only when 
they go to bed. It is a very happy existence. One may 
be tired for a while, but after the first few months he 

[30] 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

whittles sticks with the rest of the population and be- 
comes a fixture. Wentworth, down in Rockingham 
county, is an ideal hamlet for that sort of thing. Went- 
worth surrendered to CornwalHs and fought Cotton 
Mather's doctrines, but since then other men have sur- 
rendered to Wentworth and have garnered cobwebs and 
lived in peace. Right now in Wentworth there are 
men who sit around open fires with their coats off who 
might be running the Government or assisting Panama. 
In Wentworth and larger North Carolina towns there 
is such an incessant amount of matters to get excited 
about, apart from the growth of weeds in court-house 
yards or an unfortunate remark that was dropped at a 
Sunday-school social. This is no criticism of small 
towns. Bless them all! They breed the biggest men, 
the rarest news, and the biggest liars. And such love is 
awakened in small-town citizenship ! What is Boston to 
Hillsboro, Paris to Morganton, or St. Petersburg to 
Lincolnton ? What is a metropolis compared to a town 
where one has speaking acquaintance with every dog 
that he meets, knows every face in a congregation, and 
is permitted to add his hush-note to the last dear song of 
gossip. The privileges of a small town are many and 
each one has an interrogation point after it. But when 
you're sick, they all send you things to eat, and when 
you die the heartfelt sob is heard above the wail of the 
httle organ. One would go back to the small town just 
as the stag goes back to die at the place he was 'roused. 

Lincolnton need not get worried over being called Lincolnton 
sleepified. A compliment was intended. The Lincoln- 

[31] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

ton people have plenty of money and cotton mills and 
enterprise, and they can lead the universe in cooking 
beaten biscuits; but the town is sleepified just the 
same. Nice sleepified! There are no end of moss- 
covered wells there, and shade trees and vine-covered 
porches; there is an insectish drone in the atmosphere; 
a mule standing in front of the post-office drops into 
slumber; the voice of a woman calling a child arouses 
one like a challenge and can be heard a mile ; a gentle- 
man from the country tilts his chair against the side of a 
store and snores. That's Lincolnton — bless it! Stay 
there a month and time may hang heavily on your 
hands; stay there two months and you never want to 
live anywhere else. When you're well, everybody knows 
what you have to eat; when you're sick, everybody 
sends you things to eat. That's Lincolnton — dear, old 
sleepified Lincolnton. 

Taylorsville The new court-house at Taylorsville, Alexander 
county, will have no bell. The old court-house has a 
bell, which the writer has previously emphasized as the 
most interesting bell in North Carolina. Formerly that 
bell rang whenever a beef was killed — rang out the tid- 
ings of salutations and felicitations. The residents of 
the community might be drowsing of a peaceful sum- 
mer day, but when the bell pealed forth there was a 
sudden and remarkable activity as all hands sprinted 
to view the cow that had died ; and, as the residents ran, 
many were the joyous bets as to whether the late de- 
ceased was a heifer or a plain, unvarnished bull year- 
lin'. With the next court-house that dear old bell will 

[32] 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

go forever — alas ! An Alexander cow must die silently, 
with a bitter tear in her eye. 

All of the circus was not under canvas. Circus Day 

The day was unusual. It was, as Col. Tom Black 
predicted, a record-breaking circus day. Fourteen 
thousand people saw the afternoon performance, and 
such attendance was considered marvellous, even in a 
city where the circus numbers its devotees from the 
oldest to the youngest member of every household. 

And certainly 10,000 people — and may be 20,000 
people — got drenched — not wet after the usual fash- 
ion, but wet in a cosy, complete way that caused the 
proud crests of women's hats to droop soggily, sent 
their bedraggled skirts under their heels as they 
walked, and caused the color of a man's hat to show in 
the hurrying raindrops as they fell from the tip of his 
nose. 

Bunched in front of the circus tent were the be- 
soaked; bunched they were in town; and betwixt and 
between they scurried like so many dismal, rain-reeking 
sheep, or like a multitude of principals who were re- 
turning from a colossal baptizing. 

Such is a cursory view of the main features of yester- 
day in Charlotte. 

* * * 

In gala day attire and mood Charlotte turned out en 
masse, but Charlotteans were hardly to be recognized 
in the scurrying throng. In a night and a day a new 
population had sprung up ; had come here on trains, in 
carriages, wagons, and in all manner of vehicles; had 
3 [23] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Circus Day walked here. Strangers strolled familiarly on the 
streets, and took major part in the festivities. They 
came from all near-by towns and from distant places; 
and they appeared in silk hats, in celluloid collars, and 
in the homespun clothes that mark the mountaineers 
from Yancey, Mitchell, Wilkes, and other mountain 
counties. The city had lost its complexion. It was a 
mere bump on the earth where humanity disported it- 
self hke a seething mass of ants, and forgot dull care in 
a thirst for a sight of the elephant and Pierrot gambol- 
ling in the aroma of clean, sweet sawdust. 

By daylight the visiting gentlemen from Bakersville, 
Burnsville, and North Wilkesboro had fed their horses 
and had taken positions where they might get an un- 
disturbed view of the grand parade. The great ma- 
jority of these came here just to see the parade; rode 
the best part of two days and suffered the inconvenience 
of camping out to enjoy the pleasure of seeing their 
lordships the lion and the kangaroo ride past in stately 
splendor and to sit in critical judgment upon the new 
melodies that were to be wafted from the steam piano. 
To them the parade was the beginning and end of all 
things wonderful. Fifty cents meant admission into 
the Place Beautiful, where the monkey claims a lawful 
and honorable place in man's estate, and where a 
woman, who stands on one foot on a flying horse and 
kisses the tips of her fingers, may become a more endur- 
ing vision than the most fantastic conception of beauty 
that might come to one who stood on Pisgah's top and 
saw heaven in the majesty of the rolling clouds. 

So visitors from the backwoods districts and thou- 
[34] 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

sands of others waited only on the feast that came with Circus Day 
the parade and found therein satisfaction to the utmost. 

By nine o'clock dense crowds of people lined the thor- 
oughfares along the length of South Tryon street and 
down North Tryon street as far as Ninth street. The 
crowd thickened, and yet more people came out to 
wait and see. At eleven o'clock traffic along the line of 
march was almost completely blocked. At the square 
men touched elbows on every foot of space. Sidewalks, 
bulging with humanity, thrust loads into the streets, 
and every porch, every window, every veranda was 
packed. 

Good nature was everywhere manifested. The day 
was unseasonably warm, and men jostled one another 
at every step, and yet the spirit of jollity was writ large 
on every face, and laughter rang out above the hum of 
conversation. 

The parade, coming shortly after noon, brought the 
noiseless appreciation that betokens success. There 
was no applause. "Going to see a circus," remarked 
the Old Man, "is like periodical drinking. No man 
would care to see a circus two days running, but once 
a year the world gets hungry for the sight of a clown." 

And so, along the long line, there was the quick gasp 
of dehght that surcharged the atmosphere. The eyes of 
the aged citizen glistened; the face of the little boy ra- 
diated silent joy. The clown was as glorious as the 
bearded king who rode on his chariot, and who, indeed, 
would have been bold enough to choose between a bear 
and a red brass band? 

The show did not begin until two o'clock, but an hour 
[35] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Circus Day and a half before that time an army of people began 
entrance into the portals of the big canvas. The crowd 
adjusted itself perfectly and never seemed to get in its 
own way; and while the large first tent containing the 
animals and the free attractions was full at all times 
before the performance began, yet the congestion was 
constantly being relieved by the tide that swept on and 
deposited its human freight in the spacious arnpithe- 
atre. 

But the reporter paused and communed with the 
animals and lingered to hear the words that fell from 
the lips of the bearded lady. 

The parade indicated what the menagerie of Barnum 
& Bailey's would be. It is solid — as sohd as wealth 
and wide experience can devise — as solid, in point of 
instruction, as a book on natural philosophy. There 
were no frills. There were monkeys, but not enough 
monkeys to raise unseemly chatter, while there were 
not too many remnants of extinct species to arouse sus- 
picion. The six and twenty elephants fixed the stand- 
ard for the menagerie. Everything was elephant-strong 
and elephant-good — good as twenty-carat gold — good 
enough to check levity and bring sober, respectable in- 
terest to a sea of faces. 

The reporter drifted with the crowd and cursed bit- 
terly because he was denied the gift to paint the fresh, 
human pictures that faced him wherever he looked. 
* * * 

The animals inside the cages deserved the attention 
given by those outside. After satisfying his curiosity, 
one passed by the Red River hog of West Africa and the 

[36] 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

Collar bear from Thibet, and paused in front of the Circus Day 
cages that held the trained lions from Nubia and the 
tigers from India, The sight of these lions alone was 
worth the price of admission. They were grave, stately 
beasts, not fussy, but dignified, gazing into nothing- 
ness with a far-away expression in their eyes. Their se- 
vere demeanor seemed to rebuke the fretfulness of the 
puma and others of the lesser cat tribe who roamed up 
and down in near-by cages. The lion — one of nature's 
few perfect-looking creatures — made all things human 
under the canvas look feeble, ineffectual. Such majesty 
towered there, finding strange harmony in the tiger's 
sinuous grace — in that incarnation of suggestive and 
actual beauty. 

The crowd wavered, and broke, and went on, but one 
figure stood silently in front of the cage of the hippo- 
potamus. This was Col. Henry C. Cowles, of States- 
ville, whose love for the hippopotamus has been previ- 
ously adverted to in this paper. Living nearly always in 
Iredell county. Colonel Cowles has a natural liking for a 
mule; he fancies a good horse; he is fond of a dog; and 
has affection for a good cow ; but since he was a boy he 
has selected the hippopotamus as an animal upon 
which he lavishes a wealth of interest and affection. 
"Samantha," said a countryman on one occasion to his 
wife, "this is the hippopotamus cow, and my! ain't she 
plain?" But Colonel Cowles finds only beauty lines in 
the broad, wet back and sees tenderness and domestic 
traits in the expansive countenance of the large animal. 
If he had gone no farther than the one big cage, he would 
have been repaid for his visit to Charlotte yesterday. 

[37] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Circus Day With enraptured face he watched the keeper feed the 
hippopotamus on wet bran, and his hand went out in- 
voluntarily as if he would wish to stroke the dripping 
nozzle. "Above all the animals that are," said Colonel 
Cowles, "give me the hippopotamus cow — the noblest 
of all the wild beasts in the world." 

Every man to his own choice; and Rob Reinhardt, 
of Lincolnton, and several httle Reinhardts who tugged 
at his hand, foregathered with the camels — ^just stood 
and gazed into the eyes of the herd of camels and seri- 
ously nodded their approval. A man across the way 
yelled that the albino gentleman would now proceed to 
throw his backbone out of joint, and even as he spoke 
the gentleman v^^ho has no hands at all began to write 
a spencerian hand with his two large toes; but Bob 
Reinhardt only leaned down on the ropes and scruti- 
nized more closely the camels. There was more or less 
pathos in his expression, and a great deal of dejection 
in his bearing, as he turned away after a few minutes' 
conversation with the keeper of the animals. Mr. 
Reinhardt and the little Reinhardts had failed in their 
purpose to purchase a camel that they could take back 
to Lincolnton and drive in a buggy, and hitch to the 
stake in front of the post-office and thus breed envy into 
a peaceful hamlet. 

There were lots and lots of other animals. Zebras, 
emus, trained sheep, gnus, kangaroos, antelopes, buffa- 
loes, bears, monkeys — these and others were present. 
And one giraffe! Tall, slender, graceful he stood— one 
of the rarest of the wild creatures. "You see, sir," said 
his keeper, "they don't live long. They get pneumonia, 

[38I 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

or some other ailment, on the shghtest provocation, and Circus Day 

they don't stand captivity well. Excepting a female 

that is in the North and is about to give birth to a little 

one, this is the only giraffe owned by Barnum & Bailey. 

Mr. Bailey has a standing offer of $10,000 for a giraffe, 

and it doesn't seem that the order is to be filled." 

Two dozen elephants stood in a semicircle, and 
across the path stood a mother elephant who munched 
hay and gazed reflectively upon a baby that had re- 
cently become her very own. The elephants are well 
mannered, and they neither receive nor ask for the edi- 
bles that are popularly supposed to be handed out by 
the small boys and the intoxicated patrons. "There is 
something pathetic to me about an elephant," said Mr. 
W. D. Coxey, the genial press representative of the 
show. "He is a wise fellow and he bears captivity 
stolidly and sensibly. He is like the Hindoo; he does 
the best he kin do; and yet I want to cry when I see 
him, the big, sturdy thing, doing infantile stunts and 
then walking out of the arena with a subdued expres- 
sion in his eyes and his trunk fastened around the tail 
of the elephant in front of him. Yet they get ugly some- 
times, and when an elephant does get mean there is but 
one thing to do with him — kill him. Yes, we have had 
to kill four in recent years. How ? Well, the method is 
rather unique and almost invariable. We stake the ele- 
phant firmly to the ground, pass a long chain around his 
neck, fasten two stout elephants to each end of the chain, 
and they become the executioners by a choking process." 
* * * 

The free list attractions in the centre of the tent were 
[39] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Circxis Day attractive up to the point where unsightliness caused 
something akin to nausea. The programme states that 
Grace Gilbert, the bearded lady, is gentle, delicate, and 
intensely feminine in all her characteristics, and yet at 
the age of twenty-six years she has a beard " of an aver- 
age of about ten inches," It is also averred that she has 
refused many proposals of marriage. Poor bearded 
lady! One saw the well-rounded figure, saw the slen- 
der woman's hands, glanced up and imagined the 
transports of embracing Esau, and turned with relief 
to the four-hundred-pound fat lady who is the breath- 
ing, peaceful image of Charlie McCord. 

There was the dear old dog-faced boy. Only they 
dignify him by caUing him the lion-faced boy now. 
Dear old reminder of childhood's days; furnishing the 
best term to sneer at ill-favored, unhkable folk. The 
man with the hard head, the human telescope, Miss 
Leah May, the American giantess, the living skeleton, 
the whirHng Dervish, the needle-eater and the fire- 
eater, the albino dislocationist, the human pincushion, 
Eli Bowen, the legless acrobat, Charles Tripp, the arm- 
less wonder — aye, these and more were all there. A 
rare collection of freaks. A little bit of a boy threw his 
arm around his father's neck and wept as if his heart 
would break. "Oh, sonny," said the father, "don't 
cry. That's only poor old Krao, the missing link." 
But sonny couldn't reason very clearly about evolution, 
and every time he and Krao exchanged glances he 
bawled the louder. One is enlightened to note in the 
programme that Krao is a she. Most anywhere she 
would be taken for a he, or a plain, every-day him. 

[40] 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

"Just look at the midgets," said Mr. Coxey. "To Circus Day 
me they are the most interesting people in the show." 

The biggest midget is a woman, shapely, rather 
pretty. "And quite refined," said Mr. Coxey. "Dif- 
ferent? No, she is for all the world just like other 
women — has the same ideas, the same desires." There 
were four other midgets; two comparatively tallish 
little fellows, and two tiny Httle chaps and the tiniest 
sort of a little woman. She was dressed in evening cos- 
tume and had lots of pretty hair that was gracefully ar- 
ranged. She strolled up and down the platform with 
her hand on the arm of the smaller of the two littlest 
midgets, but her eyes kept turning to the larger of the 
two. "That's a sad case," said Mr. Coxey. "She is 
crazy about that little fellow. To her he is the biggest, 
boldest, bravest man in the world. She has been in 
love with him for a long time. When we were in Buda- 
pest last year, they announced their engagement, and a 
number of us, including some German newspaper men, 
gave them a pre-nuptial banquet. After the toast of 
the evening had been made the bridegroom-to-be rose 
to his feet, and, in responding, said that he was not so 
sure about being married after all. He said he would 
have to think it over for a while. What a bombshell his 
announcement caused, and how that little woman did 
suffer! But since then they've been getting friendlier, 
and I fancy the thing will end in marriage. She's quite 
daffy about him, and to her he is tall and stately and 
more beautiful and heroic than all the princes of the 
fairy tales." 

* * * 

[41] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Circus Day The circus itself! What is there to say about a cir- 
cus? As the years pass they change a bit and grow 
larger, and yet the essentials must remain the same. 
Pleasure builded above the sawdust that contains the 
clown, the elephant, the acrobats, the bareback riders, 
the long whirl of a body from one trapeze to another, 
the chariot races — such things are to be the eternal fab- 
ric of a circus. Sometimes there is more; sometimes 
less ; always a circus gives better return for money than 
any other form of amusement. And yesterday it was 
more. Three pulsing rings made the eyes swim and 
tired one's brain. The only risk, in pleasure's name, 
was in surfeit. Four hundred women came out and 
gave the spectacular "tribute to Balkis," a rhythmic, 
harmonious spectacle that delighted the eye and pleased 
the senses. After that — after the end oi sl gorgeous 
prelude — event followed event in mad succession, and 
the spectator was entertained in half a dozen different 
ways at once. There was an inner cry to stop the 
thing so that each act could be examined in detail. 
The elephants were wonderfully clever; the horse- 
back riding was attractive, if not particularly thrilling; 
the acrobatic work and the other athletic features, in- 
cluding the exhibition of Japanese jugglers; the tight- 
rope walking; the beautiful trained horses and dogs, 
the horse racing and then the chariot racing — all these 
and the dozens of other features were very good indeed. 
If one were called upon to select the cleverest part of 
the show he would at once point to the work of the two 
aerialists, the Clarkonions, one of v/hom turns a dou- 
ble sommersault and then turns his body completely 

[42] 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

round, in mid-air, before catching the arms of the other Circus Day 
performer, which hang down from a high trapeze. In 
a word, the big show had everything that a show ought 
to have, and it is the most complete circus that has ever 
visited the South. 

"Where do our performers come from?" said Mr. 
Coxey. "Why, most of them are from England, a 
good many from Germany, and others from France 
and Bavaria. The Americans are not as good circus per- 
formers, not as good riders or acrobats, as the Euro- 
peans. The American temperament is impatient, and 
the ordinary American hasn't the patience to spend a 
lifetime trying to learn to do a certain kind of work. 
And so much as that is required of a circus performer. 
It is strange enough that most of the midgets and the 
other freak people come from Bulgaria or Bavaria. 
Most of our performers are grouped in families. Those 
seven women who are doing turns in the far ring are 
French Jewesses — the mother and daughters and cous- 
ins. Those in the next ring are a German and his wife 
and his daughter and her husband. Certain families 
seem to be producing circus performers. This pro- 
motes morality ; and a circus is not half so immoral as 
it is popularly supposed to be. The family idea is 
strongly opposed to anything wrong, and I'll tell you 
another thing: It is the lazy life which contains no ex- 
ercise that leads oftenest to physical wrong-doing. 
Where you find a lot of people who must keep sober 
and are continually taking a lot of the right sort of ex- 
ercise you are not apt to find vice or viciousness." 

There was a start of surprise, and the show was over. 
[43] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Circus Day The concert was a whit better than the usual catch- 
penny aftermath; and the side show owns one exhibit 
alone that is worth going many miles to see. This is 
the giant — the best looking and the biggest giant that 
any one ever saw. He is 7 feet 9 inches high, wears a 
No. 36 shoe, weighs 400 and some odd pounds, and is 
well proportioned. But he seems to be a most unhappy 
giant. He creates the impression that he is lonesome, 
and a man who makes the sad error of growing to be 
that big is apt to be more or less lonesome all his days. 
He conversed with the fat lady and the lady who toys 
with the reptiles, but he always kept that weary look 
in his sensible and sensitive kind of eyes. One has an 
idea that the giant is apt to die an old bachelor, and 
probably he broods about the matter. The other things 
and people in the side show were scarcely worth while, 
though it is observed that humanity at large does take 
a morbid sort of pleasure in looking upon ungainly or 
ghastly sights and malformations that go to make up 
the exhibits in the conventional side show. 
* * * 

But there is another brief chapter to add to the 
events of yesterday. This embodied the rain. And 
such rain! The storm came in a heavy, noiseless down- 
pour shortly after the show began and held up at in- 
tervals during the performance. After the show was 
over, the people who caught the first cars to town es- 
caped a wetting, but those who were forced to linger al- 
most swam to town. Thousands of people, seeing the 
congested condition of the street cars, set out to walk to 
town. Not one man in twenty had an umbrella. The rain 

[44] 



CHARLOTTE AND HER NEIGHBORS 

fell insidiously, just as if to tempt pedestrians to brave Circus Day 
it for a while, and then suddenly it was coming down in 
torrents. In a few minutes, a thick, straggling line from 
Latta Park to town was wet to the skin, and then the 
march to the city was made recklessly. In the space of 
a mile and a half, probably four thousand women 
strode in the blinding rain and more than that many 
men were so badly caught that they could afford to dis- 
regard further hurt from the elements. No civilized 
land ever before presented such an untidy picture. 

With outer skirts tucked around their waists, and 
with white skirts muddied their entire length women 
splashed through deep puddles, buried their feet in red 
clay, pushed wet, dishevelled hair back from the eyes, 
and finally began to laugh and enjoy the adventure. The 
entire town seemed to be caught unawares. The wave 
of recklessness seemed everywhere; a sympathetic 
something that made all men and women dare to walk 
out and get thoroughly soaked. The stragglers, com- 
ing to town, found a bedraggled population wandering 
hither and thither, taking no thought to protection. 

Then all Charlotte — and may be the strangers — un- 
dressed and toasted its feet, and put on clean clothes, 
and declared that the day had been entirely good and 
that the joyous crowd that was scattered abroad in the 
local land was even larger than the audience that faced 
Mr. William Jennings Bryan when he first visited this 
city. And no one seemed to care because the presence 
of the Nebraskan had ceased to mark the high ebb of 
population in the Queen City of the South. 

[45] 



CHAPTER III 

CHARACTER SKETCHES 

"The Bull Ex-Congressman Romulus Z. Linney, of Taylors- 
Brushies" '^^^^) better known as the Bull of the Brushies, arrived 
in town yesterday, and will be here for several days. 
From the time he entered the lobby of the Buford Ho- 
tel until he retired last night, he was always surrounded 
by a crowd; and generally he was the spokesman, 
though the attentive pricking-up of his ears and the 
narrow closing of his eyeUds indicate that as a Hstener 
he is a genius — a man that the world likes to whisper to. 
Among all the odd men who are grown on the high- 
land heath in western North CaroHna, Mr. Linney is 
the strangest, the most distinctive. Even Dickens never 
knew his kind, or fashioned a type that is near akin to 
the Bull of the Brushies. He is older now than he used 
to be, but his rotund figure is as active as of yore; the 
eyes just as em^otional; the voice as quick and strong, 
and ready as ever to speak language hke that of no other 
man in the universe. 

Most men who read literature hold it in reserve as 
mere ornate punctuation or emphasis for every-day 
speech, but Mr. Linney breathes composite rhetoric at 

[46] 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

breakfast. The cadence of "Locksley Hall," the"TheBuU 
quaintness and subtle charm of Coke, the common- Brushies" 
sense phraseology of John Stuart Mill, the rareness of 
Shakespeare — all these blend in single sentences when 
words fall from the lips of this strange man of genius. 
In congressional halls he has caused laughter by the 
use of colloquialisms that are his birthright; while in 
the far-back rural districts he has combined, in furious 
speech, Spencer, the Old Testament, Bill Nye, Black- 
stone and the Constitution, and aimed them with teUing 
force at an audience that was moved to weep blind 
tears. 

And he is notable everywhere he goes. You will 
mark him on the streets if you see him. People in 
Washington and New York used to turn and gaze upon 
him; they knew not why. A costly frock coat, the 
product of an expensive tailor, is on his back, and does 
not conceal fancy corduroy trousers that are both 
serviceable and splotched. 

Ever since he ceased to be a Democrat, Mr. Linney 
has been a Republican. That's a way he has of doing 
things. He is a positive character, and is pretty apt to 
be one thing or another. Just now he is preparing to 
obtain the Republican congressional nomination in the 
eighth district, and he is quietly trying to further his 
chances by foregathering with the hordes of Republi- 
cans who are here in attendance upon the District 
Court. Mr. Linney explained the matter in another 
way in answer to a question of the reporter. 

"Why do I come here, sir?" he replied. "I come 
here, sir, to attend a meeting of the patriots ; and only 
[47] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

"The Bull Republicans are patriots. I come here, sir, to be pres- 
Brushies " ^^^ ^^ ^ ^^^^ feast ; to be an humble factor in a reunion 
that stirs the soul and warms the heart." He waved 
his hand benignly over a circle that included Judge 
Boyd, Gus Price, Mr. S. Wittkowsky, Col. H. C. Eccles 
and a few others. 

" Do I expect to get the nomination in the eighth dis- 
trict? I do. I expect to thunder out the truth to the 
good people of that district; and I shall expect to de- 
feat for the nomination my friend, Spencer Blackburn. 

"Yes, if I am nominated I shall hope to run against 
Mr. Theo. F. Kluttz. Will that give me pleasure, sir? 
Pleasure ? Why, I will be honored in meeting such an 
eloquent, courteous gentleman. 

"But disturb me not with these minor matters and 
let me reflect in peace upon the beneficence of that 
God-fearing citizen, Marcus Hanna. Sir, I look upon 
him not so much as an ordinary man, but I love to 
think on the qualities of his great soul. Here hero-wor- 
ship has no taint of sacrilege. And I may add that my 
tribute is incomplete without grouping alongside Mr. 
Hanna two other Christian gentlemen, Grosvenor, of 
Ohio, and President Theodore Roosevelt. Each chal- 
lenges hero-worship — receives it. Yes, I think Roose- 
velt will be the next President." 

"What do you think about Judge Boyd's ticket: 
Roosevelt for President and Judge W. S. O'B. Robin- 
son for Vice-President?" 

"Judge Robinson is a brilliant man and is deter- 
mined to make a reputation for himself," said Mr. Lin- 
ney, who is a diplomat. 

[48] 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

The sublime mood flickered for a moment on the mo- 
bile face, and comical curves worked at the corners of 
his mouth. "Happy?" he said. "Yes, I am happy. 
You should have been with me, sir, recently. I have 
been in the Second Paradise, out yonder in Watauga 
county, on the top of Ritch Mountain, six thousand feet 
above the level of the sea." Eloquence flashed once 
again in the merry, passionate eyes, and then died, and 
the Bull of the Brushies was trailing on the level. 

"I have come down here to meet with the clansmen," 
he said with a grin, "and it reminds me of the rubbing 
of dead shad together." 

Prof. Shepherd Monroe Dugger came to the city not The 
with the loud heralding that should have announced Dufger 
his approach, and when he would have lectured in the 
court-house last evening he found himself facing only 
a few persons, and therefore he determined to postpone 
his discourse until Thursday night, when he will speak 
in the Y. M. C. A. 

Professor Dugger is very anxious to speak before a 
representative Charlotte audience, and it is to be hoped 
that he will be greeted with a large audience when he 
rises up to speak on "How to Make Sober Men and 
Happy Women." The nominal charge of fifteen and 
twenty- five cents should not be a strong enough bar- 
rier to keep any one from tasting the eloquence of the 
famous author of "The Balsam Groves of the Grand- 
father." 

Professor Dugger is modestly proud of his lecture and 
the effect that it has had upon residents of Gastonia and 
4 [49] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The upon people in other places where he has been recently. 
Dueger ^^ ^^^ permitted to speak in churches, and he said he 
gave offense to no one, and that people invited him 
around to dinner and expressed their appreciation of 
his efforts. "I am not so green at the business as I once 
was," he said. "I have learned many things since the 
time I used to lecture up there in the mountains. I can 
feel how my audience is feeling, and if I am about to go 
too far I can see the danger in the eyes of the first 
young woman whose eyes I happen to see." 

Prof. Dugger explained that the theme of his lecture 
was so narrowed that it did not deal with a great va- 
riety of subjects. Intemperance in all its branches, the 
usefulness of honest work, the right sort of domestic 
Hfe, love, courtship, marriage, and the humior that is 
injected into side-Hne jokes — these and just a few other 
topics are reckoned with in his lecture. "And I am not 
so crude a stick of material as formerly," asseverates 
Professor Dugger. Which means that his lecture is a 
refined thing that will tickle a sensitive palate without 
causing the least bit of nausea. 

His friends here who have seen Shepherd Monroe 
Dugger on his native heath, standing hard by his be- 
loved Grandfather Mountain and emitting bold, won- 
derful, weird and volcanic words, entertain the fear 
that, may be, the fierce, primitive genius has become 
too softened by the search for refining influence. Has 
Dugger become tame? That is the question. Is this 
the same Dugger who said roughly, " I don't want to talk 
to any audience whose faces look like a carload of 
bruised watermelons"? That's the Dugger that the 

[50] 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

people wish to hear; that's the Dugger who won fame The 
that spread to the furthermost confines of the nation. ^ueg"r 
Let him speak further, if he pleases, of the boil on the 
old lady's back; let him find and hurl to the startled 
winds more and yet more of his perorations which over- 
whelm one with terrific unfathomableness. His friends 
here venture to express the hope that the original and 
only Duggerism will manifest itself here Thursday 
night. 

Let the professor spout the great clarion lingo that 
came to him and possessed his soul as he and the Grand- 
father Mountain slept side by side. Let him do this, 
and the Charlotte audience, which is ever heroic in pa- 
tience and courage despite unfair handling, will en- 
deavor to rise to the point of understanding and, even 
if appalled, will yet be grateful for having heard una- 
dulterated, unlassoed and untamable Duggerism. 

There must be no restraint for Prof. Shepherd Mon- 
roe Dugger, and this counsel comes at the behest of his 
friends who have seen him moving and speaking as an 
untrammelled scion of the Blue Ridge. He now wears 
a long frock coat and shakes hands rather too high in 
the air. He refused yesterday to say "ain't," and picks 
his words with a preciseness that caused nervousness. 
He claims to be an apostle to intellectual reformation, 
and the claim causes regret. The great Dugger must 
not learn away from his early creed and language. Let 
him say, "My darHn' Mihilda, Mahulday, Mahishla ' 
Jane, if you'll allow me to implant upon your cavern- 
ous mouth some faint evidence of my inconsiderable 
abiHty as an osculatory artist, I'll cure your toothache." 

[51] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

_ The Let him say that if he wants to. Let him gurgle as 
DiSeer wildly as the raciest mountain stream; let him roar 
with the untutored majesty of Linville Falls. Break 
forth, Dugger — be the old Dugger! Howl, sing, lash 
yourself in the dear old way and make everybody sit up. 
Fifteen cents "per" entitles the local world to no big 
demand ; but, in the name of BuUscrape and by the sa- 
cred beard of the Grandfather, it is your duty to bust 
loose and warble the same song that used to shake and 
overturn intellects in the high hills. 
* * * 

With his hair disordered, his cravat askew, and his 
eye — both eyes — in fine frenzy rolling, Prof. Shepherd 
Monroe Dugger, lecturer, and author of "The Balsam 
Groves of the Grandfather Mountain," strolled into 
The Observer office yesterday and, striking himself on 
the chest, said loudly: 

"The only and original Dugger, the bard of Banner 
Elk, still lives ! 

"Read this," said the only authorized spokesman for 
the Grandfather Mountain — "read this and know that 
Duggerism still survives." Here was the offering: 

"Yesterday's Observer says: 'In the name of Bull- 
scrape and by the sacred beard of the Grandfather it is 
your duty to bust loose and warble the same song that 
used to shake and overturn intellects in the high hills.' 

"Let me answer my friends in Charlotte that I still 
possess the lingo that sighs in the balsams of the Grand- 
father. The Linville Falls are pouring as vividly in my 
cranium as when I lifted the speckled beauties flaunt- 
ing in their white spray. The rhododendrons continue 

[52] 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

to bloom in the horizon of the forests as the borealis of 
the floral kingdom. Every crystal fountain is a silvery 
tongue of the mountain bubbling poems from its orifice; 
pouring torrents, dallying through twisted gyves, steal 
the hues of the rainbow and paint them on the sides of 
their fishes, and the blood from angels' wounds, still 
falling from the battle in heaven, leaves its formula 
and sad muse upon the autumnal leaves." 

As these words were read the fine raiment of the poet 
of Banner Elk seemed no longer to conceal the strange 
personality of that Dugger who, as foreman for all the 
road-working forces in Watauga county, had once 
proudly termed himself "The Colossus of Roads." 
With the murmur of such eloquence there was wafted 
to aroused senses a long, sweet breath from the high 
hills, the cry of the owl under the moon, the far whisper 
of gurgling streams, the scent of wet green things. 

The old Dugger, the real Dugger, is alive and not 
dead. 

Once more the theatrical season opens in this city, Nat Gray 
and the voice of Col. Nathaniel Gray is silent. For 
many years he was the engineer of the gilded, tinselled 
art — the manager of the opera house that saw the great 
Booth and mocked cobwebs and discomfort by the pa- 
rade of lesser lights. All of talent that came he brought 
and revelled in. As the proud patron of it all, he 
laughed for years with Pierrot, sighed with Cinderella, 
languished with Romeo, and wept with Brutus. So 
much did his office enter into his daily life that he said 
"Gadzooks" in the little barber shop that he owns on 
[53] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Nat Gray West Trade street, and he tried to teach his little dog 
to emulate the proud manner of the distinguished lion 
that brought fame to the opera house season before 
last. But the place beautiful is even now almost for- 
gotten. That brilliant curtain with the sixteenth-cen- 
tury figures, the Arabian horses, and the nineteenth- 
century hotel in the left-hand corner — ^where is that 
curtain? Where the spluttering purple lights and 
pink lights — where the green garden scene that has 
contained King John, Rupert of Hentzau, Petronius, 
Hamlet, Richelieu and Wild Bill? Where the sacred 
seats that witnessed so long the tales of greatness and 
heroism? Gone! "The wind has blown them away." 
Swept is the histrionic dust. An eerie sound is there. 
Ghosts may rehearse by ghostly hmelight, and the 
shade of the princess who wore the imitation silk may 
curtsey to the king who wore gaiter shoes, that were 
marked down to $1.98; a Roman legion can appear in 
misty array, but the spirit of the old house, that so 
gloated over its changing throng, is dead in silence. 
The manager is out of business. Retired! He raises 
chickens in Utopia — which is Dilworth. Raises chick- 
ens and beets — and things. And so finds happiness 
for a later life. Out into the darkness he looks peace- 
fully, hopefully. Close to nature he is; the keen, 
sweet breath of the forest is wafted to him; he hears 
the last tuneful carol of the lark at eventide ; he looks 
deep into the eyes of the youthful chickens, and finds 
rest, surcease of sorrow. It is given to him, even as it is 
given to Col. Jeems Howie, to know the blessings of the 
quieter living; to know that in ruraldom poverty is as 

[541 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

precious as affluence. Here, he knows, all men must 
live alike. And he has found, as Colonel Howie found, 
that — 

"Them that has no hired hands blows the dinner 
horn just the same as them that has." 

Kid Sloan died yesterday afternoon at 4 :30 o'clock at Kid Sloan 
St. Peter's Hospital. The cause of his death was alco- 
holism. It would be no kindness to Kid to try to let him 
down light by saying that he died from some other 
sickness. As he had anticipated, he passed out the 
liquor way, and if he had any voice in the matter now 
he would sneer at an effort to disguise the truth. 

This history of Kid Sloan — or David Wilson Sloan — 
was published in The Observer a few days ago. He was 
a waif who was hurled around the world laughingly but 
violently. He knew nothing but a print shop and hu- 
manity, and he knew both well. He was thirty- eight 
years of age — old in experience, young at heart, and 
one of the swiftest compositors in the United States. 

Kid was born in Stanly county, but he had lived in 
almost every part of America, and he knew the manners 
and sayings of many peoples. In a Bohemian sense he 
was a thorough man of the world and his fund of an- 
ecdote was enormous. He absorbed color at every 
point he touched and put it to no use except to amuse 
his friends. He had lost the faculty of being surprised 
at anything in the world, but his sense of humor kept 
him bhthe and fresh until his being was finally engulfed 
in rum. After his death it is remembered that he was 
the quaintest and the most interesting personage in the 
[55] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Kid Sloan town. He accomplished nothing that was worth while, 
but he was utterly fascinating. 

Kid was a morphine fiend, an opium fiend, and a 
drunkard, but he never did a mean or a malicious thing 
in his life. He was the sort of a m.an who would pick 
up a strange, friendless dog and carry it home and give 
it half of his last crust. He never had much to give, but 
he was always perfectly willing to give all that he had. 
When his body writhed bitterly with the torture of self- 
punishment, he yet radiated laughter. He was ever 
the chiefest figure in every group that opened to receive 
him, and, no matter what hell he placed upon his own 
soul, he spent the best part of his thirty-eight years in 
giving mirth that was sweet and wholesome by essence 
and strength. No man who ever met Kid Sloan can for- 
get him — can forget that tiny, warped form or the droll, 
incisive speech that fell from the thin, seamed lips. 
Kid might have been an eastern philosopher trans- 
planted. He was out of place here — a weird little per- 
sonality that understood everything about and was 
never understood; a pitiful Httle chap who laughed 
and made others laugh, harmed no one but himself, a.nd 
died without ever having grieved or lost a friend. 

Kid would have understood this obituary, for he 
liked plain speech and hated "slopping over." He 
never lied about anything and he shall not be lied about. 

The immediate particulars relating to his death are 
briefly told. He used morphine and cocaine for many 
years, and there was hardly a part of his body that had 
not been pricked by the hypodermic needle. He was 
one of the few men vs^ho ever managed to quit the king 

[56] 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

drug. After he shook off the drug habit he alternately 
worked and drank whiskey. Two weeks ago he in- 
dulged in a colossal spree and topped it with overmuch 
laudanum. Before he had time to recover himself or put 
up another of his brilliant, laughing fights, his heart 
was as good as a dead one and the doctors who looked 
at him shook their heads. 

To quote Kid's own use of the vernacular, he had 
"pied his form." In describing the unpleasant duties 
incident to the work of a sheriff in a certain wild section 
of Utah, Kid once said that the sheriff's office was "on 
the hook." And the blurred story that told Kid's Hfe 
has been Hfted from the hook by the Master Foreman. 

Who shall say that mercy will not follow the reading ? 

A dead clown ! The words sound odd, don't they ? A Dead 
They do not pretend to give a sure-enough picture. "^'^ 
They are, in fact, used for an opposite purpose. Can 
you imagine a clown's dying ? Hardly. All other men 
are credited with human feelings, with power to love 
and hate, but one cannot imagine that even death could 
bring dignity to a clown. For Pierrot must be none 
other than Pierrot, and can one be quite serious when 
thinking of the final, agonized twitches of that pitiful, 
painted face? 'Twas ever so, and it is recorded that 
men of long ago have laughed naturally when court 
jesters have died of broken hearts. There be many 
men who would gravely assist their Maker in taking 
care of the multitudes of swagger, pretentious fools 
who bustle on every side, and yet would jeer at the trag- 
edy that befell him who, willingly, had worn the point- 
[57] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

A Dead ed cap and played above the sawdust, A clown dead — 
°^° a clown suffer ? You see the picture as it must be, and 
it is funnier so. You have already seen him weep, and 
'twas his most comical trick. The face was fashioned 
only for merriment, and death's sweat trickling down 
his painted lineament would have merely 'roused hu- 
mor to a shriek of appreciation. No, the mind refuses 
to permit Pierrot to die or be unmirthful. There are 
such and such clowns, but a clown in a coffin? The 
sweet, sweet jest! Even Old Scrooge came at length to 
laugh and the world approved. Other men have 
changed from grave to gay, from laughter to tears, and 
this demeanor is seemly, but to one poor figure the end 
of lifelong frivolity is a shroud of great, baggy clothes, 
with fun-paint to distort a ghastly pallor. So the world 
thinks; clinging to an old world's idea. 
* * * 

The vision changes, and the humor, for all its cer- 
tainty, is not free from pathos. Looking back on the 
centuries one sees the crumbled castles, the cobwebs 
above decayed biers of emperors, the profound, eternal 
hush above splendor — sees these with awe, and then re- 
members, in faint sadness, that even the jesters have 
died. The stately halls that rise in imagination can do 
more than give back tomb-like echo. The crown is but 
dust ; and in the far mouldy corner are Pierrot's rotted 
clothes and bells lying in a dishevelled heap. . . . See- 
ing a life that has been lived, one is stirred yet again 
by pleasure that was; mourns, if but slightly, over the 
sorrow that came; and then recollects, with a sigh, 
that death has also crept under the old and smaller can- 

[58] 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

vas, and in claiming that dear old painted figure has A Dead 
really stifled the Uttle bright-eyed boy who sat there ^^'^'^^ 
with his heart attuned to ecstacy and whose eyes found 
only beauty and peace in the world. Wandering among 
the things that are dead, man feels regret at every stride 
— here for mistakes; there for pleasures that have 
passed; and yet mirth must arise at the clown's sepul- 
chre. Mirth? Aye, mirth always; tears sometimes. 
So. . . . Pierrot is dead and must die — he and the 
little child and the perfect sunshine. 
* * * 

The train of thought was suggested by the fate of 
Leno Wills, the veteran clown, who is now in the 
county jail serving a thirty-days' term for drunkenness. 
He was an old-fashioned clown, and one of the best, it 
is said. He was a star in the ancient one-ring circus, 
and probably thousands of men and women remember 
the vast pleasure he brought to their childhood. They 
would hardly recognize Leno now — such a wreck is he. 
He is never far from the gutter — when he isn't behind 
prison bars. Lectures, kindness, moral suasion have 
no effect. Out of prison in the morning, he is purple- 
faced at night. The mocking tribute to his former call- 
ing is paid by small boys who jeer at him when he is in 
his cups, and call him by that absurd soubriquet, "Dol- 
ly-My-Leg's-Broke." The street scene is familiar: the 
children crying derisively; the old clown goaded and 
weeping under the taunts. Homeless, friendless, cheer- 
less, a confirmed dipsomaniac — so the poor old jester 
nears the end. As he gathers his tatters about him 
and stands close to the new-made grave, he still must 
[59] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

hear the laugh. Only a clown is passing. What 
matter ? 

Flashes He came into the restaurant again the other night. 
°Mire ^^ S^^^ more wretched every day. He had a good col- 
legiate education — was a first-honor man, and other 
men pointed to him and said: "He will do big things." 
He made one short, brilHant spurt in the world and 
then fell under the rule of whiskey. That was many 
years ago. He never rallied, and yet he has not gone to 
the dogs as other men go. His mind still fights against 
the grossness of his body, and the bloodshot eyes and 
the inflamed face are still illumined by an expression of 
acute inteUigence. When he is lowest in debauchery, 
when his throbbing head falls weakly forward, his lips 
yet utter high speech, gems of thought from the writers 
of the classic Addisonian school. He is a creature of 
the gutter, but his thoughts are not there. His intellect 
screams under horrid punishment and sparkles brightly 
above the foulness of its home. Liquor never brings 
him lethe. The writer has seen him drunk many times, 
but he was never happily drunk. Unless some miracle 
be performed, he will die a drunkard. His thirst is mad- 
dening, awful — a frightful thing even to witness. His 
tongue rolls out over parched lips ; there is a gulp in the 
throat, a restless, prowling movement of the body, a 
hunting, insatiate devil that glows out of the wild 
eyes. But the whiskey turns on him and makes him a 
self-mocker, and his brain tortures in its clamor to be 
allowed to act unhampered. His thoughts are ever on 
the greater accompHshments — ever in the intellectual 

[60] 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

realm — for he knows with an aching, weird bitterness 
that he was rightly destined to deeds of fineness. But 
he is at the mercy of the curse, and with the last tender 
quotation from one of the world's masters trembling on 
his lips, he will die as a dog dies. 

A good many people were interested in the little Gabriel the 
midget, Gabriel, who did stunts in "A Son of Rest," ^^^^^^ 
the production that Mr. Nat Wills presented at the Acad- 
emy a few nights ago. The little chap made everybody 
laugh, and seemed very happy while on the stage, but, 
when viewed closely, it was noticed that there are deep 
lines on his face and the sorrow of all the ages in his 
eyes. He is twenty-five years old, and is no larger than 
a six-year-old boy ; and yet he has a man's ideas and a 
man's intelligence. The sight of a midget makes one 
shudder. To feel grown up and to have a man's heart 
and wishes, and then to speak in a thin, piping voice and 
strut around in No. i shoes — ah, it must be awful ! No 
wonder the poor little chap looked sad; and one won- 
ders how the deuce he manages to live at all. He can't 
do anything to amuse himself. At the hotel the women 
in the company teased and played with him, and his eyes 
looked both fierce and sorrowful. May be he is like 
other men : may be he dreams of holding a soft, delicate 
head close against his throat; and here the big, frowsy 
blonde mocks him by patting his head. Little Harold 
Hooper came up and looked longingly at the midget, 
with an interrogation point in his eyes. He wanted to 
invite Gabriel to come out and play with him, and the 
expression in Gabriel's eyes showed that if Harold 
[6i] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

made that amiable request he would do his best to slay 
the first-born of the proprietor of the Central Hotel. 
Really, a midget must be a keen disappointment to 
himself. Being a giant is bad enough, because as one 
potters around he comes across mighty few giantesses 
who move more gracefully than cows; but being a 
midget ! To have people pity you and look at you as if 
you were a new kind of fine, red bug — that's the destiny 
of a midget. Surely the Lord wouldn't hold a little 
fellow like that responsible for anything he might do. 
If you were a midget, wouldn't you feel like getting a 
large pistol and tottering along and shooting somebody 
just as a mild way of expressing the terrible bitterness 
that was in your soul ! 

Wine and The writer used to know a man who spent most of his 
life sitting on a dry-goods box and whittHng sticks. But 
about once every three months he would drink an over- 
plus of "corn hcker" and quote beautiful, tender things 
like Browning's "Last Ride." Imagine it, will you? 

" I and my mistress, side by side, 
Shall be together, breathe and ride, 
And, so, one day more am I deified" — 

And then another pull at the neck of the bottle that 
contained the vile, evil-smelling stuff. Yet the sprees 
were the only thing that made the man interesting. In 
sober moments he yawned before dinner and discussed 
the stuff he Hked to eat ; but with a pint of corn whiskey 
his voice wore the surging cadence of an impassioned 
orator, and with a quart he fairly wept over his own elo- 
quence and his exquisite thoughts. He became quite 

[62] 



Wit 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

an object of reproach in a church-going place, yet to 
this day his townspeople bristle with pleasure when he 
starts on his periodical jaunt to the distillery. This 
man and the foreman are somewhat alike, though the 
foreman would not have swallowed the poetry even 
with the corn liquor as a chaser. Which is a strong way 
of explaining the foreman's aversion to the pretty gift of 
song. 

You are always at liberty to spot an ass when you A Dandy 
travel because you never know how confidently the 
other man is listening for your own bray. This asser- 
tion is by the way. The writer is thinking of a type 
that he met a few days ago. It was in a railroad wait- 
ing room. A young man came in smelling loud of per- 
fumery. He wore new clothes, new shoes, and a new 
hat that rested on the back of his head and allowed a 
display of hair that was parted in the middle and fell 
low on his forehead. His collar was too high and his 
tie was of purplish hue. He was most affable. He 
opened a new vahse which contained, among other 
things, a lot of cigarettes, two bottles of whiskey, and a 
picture with a glass frame. He asked everybody to 
drink. Nobody drank. He pulled out the picture and 
said, "That, gentlemen, is the girl I am going to marry." 
The fattest drummer sighed and looked bored. No- 
body said anything. The pasteboard in the picture- 
frame was decorated with gaudy little red flowers and 
birds. A brooch at the neck of the girl in the picture 
shone brilliantly under goldish paint. " That's the finest 
girl in the land," said the youth, as he carefully laid the 
[63I 



IDLE COMMENTS 

photo above the bottles of corn liquor. Along with 
others in the waiting room he got on the train. He was 
restless and communicative — roamed all over the train 
and puffed clumsily at many cigarettes. Finally, at a 
small station, he picked up his valise and got off. The 
girl in that picture was there to meet him, and as she 
shook hands with him he blew cigarette smoke in her 
face. He looked as if he thought she ought to be awful 
proud of him. She was proud and pleased, and at- 
tempted no concealment. He pulled on a pair of brand 
new and very yellow gloves, tilted his hat a little further 
back on his head, blew his nose with a stiff new hand- 
kerchief, and strode away — a Hon in his home-coming, 
a laddie who had joined his lassie on that beautiful 
Christmas morning. 
And the fattest drummer fairly snorted. 

A Bit of I was on a train between Salisbury and Asheville. 
aysee rj,^^ first-class coach was occupied by men only — bored- 
looking men who rode in silence. When the train 
stopped at a small station a red-cheeked country girl 
suddenly appeared in the aisle. She had a smihng face, 
bright, happy eyes, and wore a muchly washed skirt 
that was too short, and starchy looking white stockings. 
She looked down the aisle, court esied, and said genially: 
"Good morning." 

The man closest to her turned to see the man to 
whom the girl spoke. He found every man in the car 
turning to look at the man behind him; and then it 
dawned on the occupants of the car that the salutation 
was addressed to everybody in the coach. The silence 

[64] 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

was not broken. The girl rode fifty miles, then stood 
up in the aisle once more, looked down the car and 
said cheerfully: 

"Well, good-bye," and left the train. 

Again there was silence. Men looked at one another 
stealthily and smiled. They had had a breath from the 
sweet green fields — had been touched with kindly hay- 
seed. 

The death of John R. Morris marked the passing of JohnR. 
an original man. He knew the other man; knew hu- ^'^"^ 
man nature; saw weakness and strength, and found 
good in almost everybody. He used to drop in here and . 
sit across the table; and one never knew whether he 
would discuss the art of the sixteenth century, the weak- 
ness of a United States senator, or the poetry of Walt 
Whitman; but he showed exact knowledge in whatever 
he talked about. He knew the history of the Booth 
family, dates and all; laughed at passages in Chaucer; 
found the discrepancies in Josephus; had intense ad- 
miration for St. Paul; could have written a biography 
of Charles the Fifth; and was very much interested in 
the boll weevil. And he looked up from some abstruse 
Hebrew doctrine to say that he liked "John Halifax, 
Gentleman," more than any book he had ever read. 
He was in his own class — a genius who loved Ruskin, 
and sold tin cups. But in him there was no contradic- 
tion or inconsistency. He was the odd man who found 
everything interesting, from a butterfly to a man of war; 
and yet he stood on his feet and smiled long before he 
died, in admitting that the hand of death was upon him. 
5 [65J 



IDLE COMMENTS 

And this was the last thing he ever wrote: "Never 
mind, old friend ; there will be a time when we can see 
better — when seemingly dark and blank areas over our 
head will bud with tender stars." 

Governor It is not necessary to add anything to the sketch of 
Aycock jyj-j.^ Daniels, and yet the Governor is such an interesting 
man that one can hardly say enough words about him. 
I think his curious consistency of character impresses 
one more than anything else in his make-up. Like the 
rest of mankind, he has Hghts and shadows in his life, 
and a variety of moods, yet underneath all this he has a 
pleasing sameness that is the essence of reliableness. I 
have seen him in an old dressing-gown, smoking a short 
clay pipe; have seen him surrounded by flattering 
women; have seen him stand within four feet of the 
President of the United States and make a speech that 
was admittedly better than the speech of the President ; 
and yet I could see no difference in the Governor or 
the man. He is a rare being who is absolutely devoid of 
pretense or affectation, and this is so simply and strongly 
marked in him that it must immediately impress a 
stranger or a child. He lacks not in dignity, but any 
man in the commonwealth can approach the Governor 
and find the real heart of the man. He has become 
notable in his own State and abroad, and he must grow 
greater because he is intensely sincere, intensely ear- 
nest, intensely patriotic. 

Walter Page There is nothing to add to this simple tale of a busy, 
happy life, though much might be said in appreciation. 

[66] 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

It has been said that Mr. Page is the greatest North 
Carolinian, and in making a comparison to define his 
place in the literary world the survey would not be con- 
fined to a single continent. It has been said also — and 
this is by the way — that at times he has criticised with 
undue severity certain phases of life down here. In 
this he makes no defense, needs no defense. It is re- 
membered, however, that at the educational meeting 
in Charlotte last May he spoke, and his theme was 
North Carolina and the natural bigness of her people. 
He believes in the State — loves it, and marked it for a 
glorious future. He did this without the maudlin sen- 
timent that is so common and meaningless. And his 
criticisms have been, likewise, crisp and clean — honest 
and kindly. 

This writing struggles against the enthusiasm that 
would so easily come. It is difficult to keep from prais- 
ing a man who always thinks understanding^ and 
writes without adjectives. 

The comment man is proud to admit publicly that A Professor 
he has a great fondness for Dr. C. Alphonso Smith, Banio*^ 
professor of English at the State University, who made 
an address at Davidson College the other day. Dr. 
Smith is one professor who is very much like folks. 
There may be other professors like this, but they are 
generally at the bottom of the barrel. Dr. Smith is 
quite on to his job and can discourse in the genuine 
Chaucer — the bloomin' chanticleer part and all — but 
he is not foolish about it. He has a quality of horse- 
sense that is priceless — and he picks the banjo. No 
[67] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

piano, or guitar, or violin, but a banjo that gives out 
old-fashioned negro melodies and allows an unctuous, 
unmeaning carol of the cotton field. The fact is noted 
merely in passing. Dr. Smith has reputation outside of 
North Carolina and he deserves it. He is a big man in 
his profession, and he will grow bigger. All the ultra- 
isms that there may be in his craft he has at his tongue's 
end ; and yet it is good to think that he is an artist with 
the banjo — good to think that students are under the 
supervision of a man who, however learned he may be, 
has the heart to turn from the dryness of book lore and 
knock a banjo silly. Yes, Dr. C. Alphonso Smith is 
nicely like folks. 

Minister By this time Minister Wu has become settled in his 
old home in China. Several people were laughing the 
other day about Mr. Wu's visit to this city. Residents 
proudly showed him all there was to see of progress and 
local industrial development; showed him the Meck- 
lenburg monument and took him through cotton mills 
and other big plants. But what interested the Celestial 
more than anything he saw during his stay in Char- 
lotte was a made-in- Germany cloth register that he 
found in the Gingham Mill. 

The first time the writer ever saw Minister Wu he 
was coming down a narrow, befouled street in the old 
city of Shanghai. He sat in a magnificent Sedan chair. 
Before him were outriders and footmen shouting strange 
jargon and carrying big placards which told of their 
master's official position. The smell about was so 
strong that it could have been almost cut with a knife, 
[68] 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

but the minister — he was a mere taotai then — was on 
his native heath. He is there now, and he is happier 
there than he was at any State dinner in Washington. 
Scratch a Chinaman for a thousand years and you will 
find a — Chinaman. We think we will teach things to 
those people ; they know we will never teach them. 

The Daughters of the Confederacy were fortunate in Major 
getting Major Charles M. Steadman, of Greensboro, to ^^ ™^^ 
make the address at the exercises to be held to-morrow 
in honor of General Robert E. Lee and General Stone- 
wall Jackson. Major Steadman may or may not be 
nominated for the governorship, but he has always 
been, and will be till he dies, what is much better than 
being Governor — the best type of a Southern gentle- 
man. The writer offers an apology for this public deal- 
ing with Major Steadman's personality; and yet 
knowledge of him has been pubHc for a good many 
years. He is one of the older men in this State that the 
younger men point at with pride, or as a model in man- 
ners and for the unfailing consideration that he shows 
to all with whom he comes in contact. The tribute 
that he receives now and will receive is worth more 
than all political honors. He is as clean in ideas and 
in dress as a refined woman ; he has the bow of a Ches- 
terfield; and he gives honest, not assumed, courtesy 
and deference to men thirty years his junior. In saying 
that such a type is rare one hazards a drastic criticism, 
yet the type is rare. Speaking broadly, an old man is 
not half so thoughtful or sympathetic as an old woman, 
and he is apt to make too open use of the advantage his 
[69] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Major years and experience give him. He is less tolerant with 
Steadman yQ^^j^^ g^j^jj j^g ^qq often considers it his privilege to drop 
affability and shroud himself closely in the dignity of 
his years. He hfts his hat not so often, loses enthusi- 
asm in a hand-shake, and makes one approach him 
with a respect that precludes confidence. This is writ- 
ten with reverence for age, yet with wonder over one 
misfortune of age. Lord, what opportunities old men 
neglect for giving happiness! Youth values so much 
the appreciation and comradeship of age, and the old 
men who are kindly and unselfish and pat youth on the 
back are the best-beloved people in the world. Every 
man has in mind a few such old men and finds it diffi- 
cult to understand why all old men are not that way. 
Respect that they demand could be so quickly had 
without the asking if they smiled more generously and 
were less dictatorial and opinionative, and to respect 
would be added more honor and admiration. A man 
lives not very long before he discovers that nobody be- 
neath the stars is really wise, and that all speech shows 
the impress of ignorance, in varying degrees, on human 
brain. Age could so sweetly afford to be humble in the 
knowledge it attains. Added years could give so much 
warmth and encouragement to youth just by a friendly 
touch, by sympathy; and could add so much to its own 
high estate in the niceties that govern the smaller as 
well as the larger affairs of fife. It is because Major 
Steadman thinks of these things that he is held up for 
inspection. If he wins in the political race it will be 
not so much because he is a statesman and a Confed- 
erate veteran, but because he has given the young men 

[70] 



CHARACTER SKETCHES 

reason to love him. If he loses, they will love him still, 
for the old man courteous is so rare as to be prized ; so 
complete is the purpose of his making that love and 
gratefulness will encompass him to the very end. 

This community misses Rev. George H. Atkinson, Rev. 
who has gone down to Monroe to take charge of the Atkmson 
Presbyterian church there. Excepting his boyhood 
days, he had Hved here only a little while, but he man- 
aged, without effort, to make everybody like him. And 
he liked everybody. His life, apart from what he had 
to say in the pulpit, was a daily ministry. Always he 
shook hands with people and smiled joyously; always 
he was sympathetic and had kind words to say. He did 
not talk religion overmuch, but he showed the world 
that his religion had made him perfectly happy and 
had stimulated his sense of humor. He was equally at 
home with the mill operative and the patrician, and he 
was loved by both because he lived the doctrine of un- 
selfishness and radiated love as he breathed. He gen- 
erally made people think better of themselves, and thus 
he exercised fine, gentle art, unflavored by flattery. He 
never jarred or rubbed the wrong way, for his tact was 
part of his religion. He was not a man who made big 
impressions, for his influence was subtle, though insist- 
ent—the quality of a man who would offer strength to 
help weakness, gladness to bless happiness, or intuitive 
sympathy as heartsease. He is not a man to rave over, 
and this is not raving. 'Tis the honest appreciation that 
does not usually come to a man until after he is dead. 
George Atkinson may not be a great preacher, but he 
[71] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

does good just by living and touching his fellow man. 
The man who would go out of his way to say one kindly 
thing to another man is to be counted an exception. 
George Atkinson wishes to help all mankind by gentle 
speech. If he were to die to-morrow his life might be 
termed perfect in its purpose and use of opportunities ; 
and the largeness of his simple living must constitute 
the apology for this thrust at his privacy. 

The Last of The last of the Romans says few words to any man, 
e omansg^j^j j^^ -^ ^^^^ oftenest as he bends his whited head and 
waters his roses. He has finished with the long fray — 
has seen all there is to see in life ; and now, in the even- 
ing, he leaves the haunts of men and leans tenderly over 
the smallest rosebud that blossoms in the tangled hedge. 
He is the most striking figure that comes on these 
streets; and he walks alone and unheeding save when 
he is stopped now and then by one who would ask a 
kindness. He, who has seen all his generation pass into 
dust, has found solitude without courting it, but since 
it has come he takes it as a philosopher unafraid — clear- 
eyed, strong, straight, not stooping except where the 
roses grow. If he has always cared for flowers that is 
not known. He has been in the great, tumultuous 
struggles and has done his part therein. Maybe he had 
no time for flowers then, but he loves them now, and 
makes them supreme in the interest of his living. They 
keep the last of the Romans from being too severe ; and 
he is very human and approachable as he — distin- 
guished jurist and gentleman — stands by the rose bush, 
still touched with the glories of the dying sun. 

I72] 



CHAPTER IV 



NEGRO TYPES 



Little Hinry has been exiled. Little Hinry 

Black as ebony he is and only twelve years of age; and 
because one leg came under a railroad car Hinry must 
forever bob along upon a cheap, wooden thing that 
may not be called a leg even in mockery. 

But Hinry has incurred the displeasure of the re- 
corder and Hinry is banished from the streets. 

Everybody knows Hinry — knows that shrewd, imp- 
ish grin and remembers that 

" Shine, sir ? Shine ? " For Hinry is, or was, a boot- 
black, privileged to shine shoes without paying the 
usual license. He found an old dry goods box and he 
rigged up an old chair which was the joy and pride of 
his life; and Hinry plied his trade and kept hunger 
from his small body. 

But the recorder laid his heavy, just hand on Hinry 
and Hinry is exiled. 

Aye, but the crime of Hinry was grievous — enough to 
tax the patience of the recorder. Hinry quarrelled with 
two other little boys who teased him, and because he 
hobbled around and gathered stones and made as if to 
throw these at his tormentors, he was arrested by the 
[73] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Little Hinry stalwart officers of the law and was accorded the honor 
of a trial in the open and honorable court. 

Because the offense was so great, it was meet that the 
punishment should be great, and so it is eminently right 
that Hinry should go into exile — this Hinry who has 
trampled underfoot — only one foot — the law of his native 
land. 

For four years Hinry, who has a grandmother and a 
comfortable bed, has never sought his home save when 
the weather was bitter and he could not stay out of 
doors. When the elements have been kind Hinry has 
slept, by preference, in alley-ways, dry-goods boxes, and 
very often in The Observer building. He had the run 
of the place here, and many a time and oft he has climbed 
on the window ledge in the front office of the print shop 
and has composed himself to slumber in plain view of 
many policemen. When aroused he growled and 
grinned and consented to move not further away from 
his improvised couch than the carpeted corridor that 
leads to the editorial rooms of this paper. Here Hinry 
has slept countless times, curled up hke a little, black, 
maimed dog. 

But Hinry, who has so cruelly broken the law and is 
an exile, will sleep here no more. 

The poor, old, worn-out chair, which glorified the life 
of little Hinry, has gone — banished also by the just edict 
of Recorder Shannonhouse. For very many days the 
chair has stood just in front of The Observer building, 
and little Hinry tried to entice into its embrace all man- 
ner of men. They will not be molested now — these 
customers of little Hinry — this little black waif who 

[74l 



NEGRO TYPES 

must needs wander on deserted back streets and weep 
in memory of a happiness that is lost. 

For the recorder was firm, as he should have been, 
and gave orders to the police that if ever Hinry is seen 
on the streets again he must be arrested. And Hinry's 
arrest, be it known, will mean summary conviction and 
imprisonment on the chain-gang. 

And so one more foul disturber of the peace has suf- 
fered a well-merited fate, and yet again the recorder 
can sleep in the perfect assurance of duty well per- 
formed. 

Hinry — little black Hinry — will no longer threaten 
the welfare of this community. 

For Hinry is an exile. 

By 9 130 yesterday morning a large number of visiting The 
and resident Masons and other interested spectators ceremonv 
had gathered in the large auditorium at the park to wit- 
ness the performance of the famous coon-dog marriage 
ceremony by its author. Col. D. G. Maxwell. Publica- 
tion had been made merely as to the fact that the negro 
couple would be married, and as to the exact mode or 
form of the nuptials speculation was rife. 

The preparations for the ceremony were ridiculous 
beyond words. Wearing the robe of Cardinal Rich- 
elieu, borrowed from the Peters & King Stock Com- 
pany, and false wig, moustache and beard. Colonel 
Maxwell advanced to the centre of the stage, followed 
by five or six nobles. One of these was Mr. A. E. Fu- 
gle, of Columbia, S. C, who carried a shot gun at pre- 
sent arms, while Mr. R. W. Roberts waved a sabre. 
[75] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The The other nobles were Messrs. C. P. Snuggs, W. J. 
Cer°emonf ^^S and C. E. Stenerson. 

At a signal, Mr. Robert Ogden, who was seated at the 
piano, began the wedding march, "The Georgia Camp 
Meeting." Entering through the main door, the bridal 
couple, Ephraim Johnson and Margaret Williams, 
came down the centre aisle, preceded by Sam Mosely, 
who held aloft a huge bouquet. With his arm round 
his bride, the groom advanced the full length of the hall 
at cake-walk pace. To make the affair more absurd, 
both were quite solemn. 

After a moment's wait in the dressing-room the bridal 
couple marched on the stage to slow music. Then came 
the sonorous voice of Colonel Maxwell in the words of 
his own invention. 

"We have assembled here together, my friends and 
brother Masons, upon this historic spot," said he, "to 
celebrate the nuptial ties of the couple now present. 
And as they launch their boat off in the ocean of con- 
nubial bliss, we will bid them 'olive oil' and fling an 
old shoe and a handful of rice forninst them; and may 
their hull be free from the barnacles of life, and be 
never subject to squalls, nor cries of ' ship ahoy ! ' " Here 
the Colonel asked the usual questions required by law, 
and then, in stentorian voice, pronounced the couple 
man and wife, "by the authority vested in him by the 
Commonwealth of North Carolina, which is sometimes 
called the Tar Heel State of this confederation of fu- 
sion, and by the county of Mecklenburg, known as the 
cradle of American liberty; by the smoking tar kilns 
and the bleeding sentinels of our turpentine fields; by 

[76] 



NEGRO TYPES 

the old flea-bitten coon dog, whose basso-profundo The 
voice is heard in the gloaming; by recollections of the ceremony 
fat baked opossum, with sides lined with sop, sweet po- 
tatoes and hoe-cake, to say nothing of the sweet and 
luscious ' watermilHon ' ; by the free-silver fake of i6 to 
I, which some think is the panacea of all national ills; 
by the Dingley tariff-bill, which is to bring forth the 
long-wished-for wave of prosperity; by the song of the 
gold-bug, which some say is the dirge of the people 
and the glorification of trusts and monopolies; by the 
loud and clarion notes of the old Shanghai chanticleer, 
heard in the early morn calling upon his comrades to 
shake off their lethargy ; and last, but not least, by the 
memory of the Decklenburg Mecklapendence of Inju- 
ration. Whomsoever the laws of North Carolina have 
joined together, let no man put asunder. Salute your 
bride, and may the Lord have mercy upon your souls!" 
The utter absurdity of the situation convulsed the en- 
tire audience with laughter. The bridal couple smiled 
appreciatively, just as star-actors. Evidently they had 
rehearsed to some effect, for at the conclusion of the 
ceremony the nimble groom, garbed in a long frock 
coat and carrying a frayed silk hat in his hand, sprang 
to the centre of the stage and faced his bride, who was 
arrayed in white lawn over black, and who began to 
quickstep with body thrown far back in cake-walk 
style. Their dancing was superb. 'Twas too utterly 
ridiculous to be true; and the audience applauded in 
screams. Again and yet again the dusky couple were 
encored, and twice they returned to the stage to intro- 
duce some novelty in step-dancing. Finally they left 
[77] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

the stage and proceeded, in cake-walk dance, through 
the auditorium and into the open. A few minutes pre- 
vious to their departure, their attendant, Sam Mosely, 
passed a silk hat among the audience and collected 
money sufficient to defray the expenses of a wedding 
trip. Thus was the coon-dog ceremony performed. 

Aunt The funeral services of "Aunt" Cynthia Carson 
Cynthia ^gj.g conducted at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. James 
H. Carson, on South Tryon street, at 3 130 o'clock yes- 
terday afternoon, by Rev. Dr. J. R. Howerton, pastor 
of the First Presbyterian Church. The pall-bearers, all 
well-known colored men, were Moses Shipp, Noah 
French, Willis Brice, and Love WilHams. 

Many flowers were there, the testimony of affection 
of members of the Carson family and many others. 
Conspicuous in the floral offerings was a calla lily cross 
sent by Mrs. Harvey H. Orr. 

The services were simple, yet impressive. Aunt 
Cynthia lived in a house in the rear of the Carson home. 
From here the body was carried to the Carson resi- 
dence and placed in the parlor. Practically all the Car- 
son family and connection and other white people, to- 
gether with a score or more of the older colored per- 
sons, assembled in the large rooms to pay the last trib- 
ute to the aged woman. 

The hymns, "How Firm a Foundation" and "Asleep 
in Jesus," were sung, and Dr. Howerton made a brief, 
earnest address, touching on the good quahties of 
"Aunt" Cynthia and holding up her life as a memorial 
to faithfulness and love. 

[78] 



NEGRO TYPES 

The Carson family and others, including the negroes, Aunt _ 
followed the body to Pinewood Cemetery. ^^ ^ 

The funeral services presented a Southern picture in 
full simplicity and beauty, A mammy of the old type 
had passed. She rested in state for a time in the big 
house, to use the negro vernacular, and this rounded up 
honorably a life that was humbly perfect. 

' ' Aunt ' ' Cynthia was nearly ninety years old. She had 
been a slave of the Carson family before the war, and 
she had served Mr. and Mrs. James H. Carson for half 
a century. She nursed every one of their children and 
held them as her own children. From the parents and 
from the children she demanded and received a com- 
mon share in happiness and sorrow. All that touched 
the family touched her. Her whole life was one of ser- 
vice and loyalty. 

She knew not a great deal that happened outside 
her people, and cared to know but little. The Carson 
boys were her boys and remained her boys until she 
died. She watched over them unceasingly when they 
were small, and when they became grown she still 
claimed a part in their lives. She did not lose her early 
idea of her slavery, but it was a pretty idea that carried 
dignity without undue obeisance. 

When the old black mammy became too old for ser- 
vice, Mr. James H. Carson built her a house in the rear 
of his own residence and there she spent her last days in 
peace. Every Sunday afternoon each one of the Carson 
men visited her. They came to her, too, at other times, 
and their vdves and children gave to her the affection 
that was so readily returned. She kept up with what 
[79] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

every member of the family was doing and was privi- 
leged to ask any question she pleased. She was the best 
type of her race, and her living and its meaning stand 
for an ideal that will Hve as the South will live. 

Such deaths in the South have become rare. Ten 
years from now they will not occur. The aged negro 
who was both servant and friend of the white man is 
seen infrequently. The type shows a certain grandeur 
for all its lack of ostentation. Three years ago, when 
Col. W. R. Myers, of this city, lay on his death-bed, an 
old ex-slave came unsummoned and sat by his master 
until his master and friend had died. No one was sur- 
prised, yet future generations must uncover in memory 
of such a scene. 

"Aunt" Cynthia's vision was confined to the big 
house and her own little dwelling, and her hfe's pur- 
pose was single, clear and very beautiful. In her own 
mind and heart she found the perfect reward here. In 
her last days she had her own servant to nurse and tend 
her, and her condition brought many anxious, sympa- 
thetic faces to her bedside. The old black mammy had 
failed in nothing and had given all she had to give of 
love; and the blessed consummation of her devotion 
came when love was leaning over and touching her even 
as the spirit went out. 

_ Major Old Major Jim Fox is dead and buried. Don't you 

Jim ox j-gj^gjnber him ? Then you know nothing of Hf e in the 

Central Hotel as it was fifteen years ago. Major Fox 

was employed in the office and he was always at the 

front. He was but little taller than his feet were long, 

[80] 



NEGRO TYPES 

and he had hands fit to shake with a bear. He was a Major 
Mecklenburg product, and was gray-haired when he ■'"^ °^ 
first entered the employment of Eccles & Bryan, thirty- 
five years ago. He was somewhere in the nineties. Per- 
haps he was a hundred. Who knows ? 

As a hotel attache, Major Fox was strictly attentive 
to business. No guest ever laid down a half-consumed 
cigar and picked it up again — not while the major was 
on duty. Both Mr. Bryan and Mr. Eccles had that 
habit, but he broke them of it so effectually that they 
have never returned to it, although old Jim has not 
been about them for years. Then, as a tip-taker he was 
an artist. An old patron of the Central said that the 
major always got him for a dime as soon as he landed 
from the 'bus and handed over his grip; got him for 
another dime when shown to his room; got him for an- 
other dime when he came shufBing in with ice water, 
and was sure to tap him at every contact during his stay 
at the hotel. "And do you believe it," he continued, 
"after I was in the 'bus and ready to go to the depot, it 
somehow seemed that the 'bus would not leave until old 
Jim had held me up for a final dime." 

The major's salary as head porter of the Central was 
not as big as that of the ordinary bank president, yet the 
old darkey became rich, in a way, and bought up good 
real estate. At the height of his prosperity he was in- 
duced by two Central Hotel darkies to chip in and run 
an excursion to Wilmington. It was a success, and the 
three partners made what each considered a pile of 
money. Then Major Fox, although the watermelon 
season had passed, conceived the idea of running an 
[8i] 



Color Line 



IDLE COMMENTS 

excursion of his own. He chartered a train of six cars 
on the Southern for an excursion from Charlotte to 
Winston. On the morning his train was to leave, six 
passengers applied for tickets. Major Fox was sure of 
getting 20 at Harrisburg, 100 at Concord, 30 at China 
Grove, 50 at Sahsbury, 10 at Lexington, and 200 at 
Greensboro. Those were his figures, and despite the 
entreaties of his friends to abandon his project, he hur- 
riedly secured a lawyer, gave a mortgage on his prop- 
erty, borrowed $265 on it, paid it over to the Southern 
agent, and took out his excursion train. The train was 
run to Winston according to contract, but barring the 
major and the six passengers with which he started 
from Charlotte, it reached Winston empty. The old 
man never recovered from the blow, but he was cured 
of running excursions. He gave up his job at the hotel 
and thenceforth had hard lines to the end. 

Poor old Jim! What a shower of tips he would get 
if that capacious black hand could be stretched out in 
the flesh to-day to those who were wont to keep it pol- 
ished in times gone by. 

The In this country a child draws the color line early, as 
by an instinct. Now, young Neil Pharr, Junior, the 
son of State Senator Neill Pharr, is a wee bit of a boy 
only about four years old, and God and his people have 
been kind in giving to him Elsie, a black mammy, who 
loves him with a tenderness and fierceness that are 
beautiful. She gives to him perfect devotion, devotes 
to him all her life. They are comrades by night and in 
day they are ever together — this aged motherly woman 

[82] 



NEGRO TYPES 

with the cheery face and the bright little boy in his first 
trousers. In the family deliberations it has been per- 
mitted the black mammy — white-hearted as a princess 
of the blood — to sit in the intimate semi-circle that faces 
the fire at eventide. Young Neill has reached the age 
that takes notice of life about. A Httle while ago, as his 
mammy sat there, big, comfy and at ease, he walked to 
her and, taking her hand, silently led her to a chair a 
few feet in the rear of the family circle. "You, mam- 
my," he said, with no lack of tenderness in his voice — 
"You, mammy, sit here." He walked back to the cir- 
cle and, resuming his seat by his father, gazed thought- 
fully into the fire. There was a moment's silence and 
everybody looked at either the black mammy or her 
boy. Then a voice from the chair Further Back came 
trembling with delight and saying : 

" Marse Neill— oh, Marse Neill, ain't he pure white ?" 
* * * 

Here's the kindliest solution of the race question. 
Here are the love, the loyalty and the appreciation ; but 
the negro must sit back — Further Back. And the ne- 
gro, the best negro, laughs and understands. 

Only a few months ago a Southern gentleman, aged A Faithful 
past the allotted span, came to die in this city. Without ^^® 
the asking there came from Texas a negro, a former 
slave, who was of his master's age. Through weeks of 
a lingering illness he sat by the side of his old master. 
He nursed him as one would tend a beloved brother. 
And he was the faithful, watchful servant until death 
had closed his master's eyes. At the last touch of analy- 
[83] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

sis, you will find that the thing that made the old negro 
come back to his dying master formed the basis of the 
present well-being of the negro. As the old servant, he 
is loved for that ; for that his son is liked and his educa- 
tion is welcomed. The feeling is a blind, indefinable 
something that includes the bootblack and the bishop, 
and holds one as far from equahty as the other. This 
knowledge is the birthright of a Southern child and is 
imbibed by all who come South to live. It is fair, ac- 
curate and unchangeable, and it is the soul of harmony. 

Mother Frequently one sees in the streets here a little colored 
girl about three years old. She is bow-legged to a re- 
markable extent ; she is very black with not a pleasing 
facial contour; and, moreover, she is petulant and ill- 
tempered. Yet her mother, who always accompanies 
her, dresses the child as if she were the heiress of thou- 
sands and had the grace of a wood nymph. She wears 
a bit of a gold bracelet on her arm, and her distorted 
figure is clothed in clinging white things that might be- 
come a tiny princess. She and her mother slowly walk 
the length of the streets — past beautiful children with eyes 
of blue and brown, and the woman's croon and the look 
on her face tell that she finds no greater love than her own 
— no more perfect child than the dusky toddler at her 
side. Yet there is nothing wonderful in the picture. It 
is but a quaintly pitiful illustration of the great mother- 
love that refuses to see blemish and blesses the world. 

"Misery" It is to be hoped that no amount of education will pre- 
vent the negroes from using certain words that are pe- 

[84] 



NEGRO TYPES 

culiarly their own. Was there ever a time that the col- " Misery " 
ored people failed to misuse the word "misery;" could 
any word be more expressive ? Your old colored mam- 
my tells you that she has a misery in her side, and you 
know that she has used the only suitable word. A ne- 
gro woman, smartly dressed, went into a drug store last 
night and complained of a misery in her head, and her 
eyes showed the feeling. " Misery " is really the best de- 
scriptive word for some purely physical emotions. Mis- 
ery in the head ! No other word can be half so expres- 
sive, or serve as a synonym. . . . Misery ! You see the 
figure bowed in the dark and the long-shuddering ache 
— the pain that means utter exhaustion. . . . There is 
the faint smell of medicine, the weary tossing on pillows 
— the intense, quick loudness of little outer noise. And 
there is other misery in the head — this vital, indefinable 
force that offers black pictures to the gaze of insomnia, 
or cries for remembrance of evil things, or grips taut 
nerves as a summons for Remorse to come to the white 
night. 



[85] 



CHAPTER V 

WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

Mirrors The subject came up the other night : 

Are mirrors deceptive? And it is so. You look in 
one glass and you have that creamy complexion, that 
dreamy, soft look in your eyes, and fine curving lines ; 
but another mirror, on the same day, shows you to be 
liverish-visaged, be-grinned consciously and unattrac- 
tively, and wrinkled beyond your ears and years. 

In two separate houses in this place there are glasses 
of the before-and-after-taking species. One, kind with 
a lie, allows a woman to go out with lack-lustre eyes 
and plebeian mould, pleased in her heart with the beauty 
that only the mirror tells. The other glass basely mocks 
Miss Dainty Face — mocks Dainty Face in trying lights 
and shadows. Did not the world deny the tale and 
wage warfare on the mirror unhappiness might come. 
. . . But the great secret is not to be told by mirrors 
after all. The quality of fascination — the thing that 
holds without wish for release — that is not as the vir- 
tue of the clean-limbed, perfect-faced. 'Tis the clear, 
sweet, hidden touch of a soul — the essence, indefinable, 
of intense, shuddering longing; the epitome of all 
peace. With a high head raised for choice, man some- 
[86] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

times looks admiringly at the perfect woman, svelte, 
clear-eyed, patrician, warm and cold . . . and loves 
past heartsease the frailest invalid that ever misery 
made selfish. No; mirrors . . . nor nothing . . . can 
tell. 

''I've no use for these men who know things about a Too 
woman's clothes," said a Charlotte lady the other day. ^^^°^"^g 
"A married man ought to know the instant his wife or 
his daughter needs a new dress or hat, but an unmar- 
ried man has no business knowing the difference be- 
tween an old gown and a new gown, and he shouldn't 
know, for instance, that there is such a thing in the 
world as a silk lining. Nothing gives me the creeps 
so quickly as the feeling that I am being sized up by a 
man. There are two or three of these effeminate criti- 
cal men in Charlotte and all the women resent their 
covert inspection. A woman dresses at and for other 
women, and a man's criticism is a cruel stab from an 
unexpected quarter. Why, I lost liking for one of the 
best friends I ever had simply because in a thought- 
less moment he told me how many evening dresses I 
had and described each one of them. The only way I 
could have punished him properly would have been to 
marry him, but the price of revenge was too dear — and, 
besides, he said that the thought of a woman in a ki- 
mona bored him to death. That was the limit. So long 
as a woman isn't slouchy, or doesn't try to produce an 
effect with an assortment of colors that would jar a 
mule, she ought to be free from a male expression of 
opinion as to the quality of her clothes." 
[87] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The Tactless ''I've been talking to a tactless woman," said the ob- 
woman servant resident, " and I feel kind of sick. Oh, it doesn't 
make any difference about a man. A man's a clumsy 
thing in finer matters, and you are not surprised when 
he stumbles and says the wrong thing. But Nature 
must laugh mockingly every time a tactless vv^oman is 
born. Ugh ! It is awful. You see, you can't take a club 
— of course you can't. You couldn't make any impres- 
sion that way., Here's a creature that is so delicately 
and finely constituted from birth that she ought to be 
able to Hft her head up and know by instinct what to say 
and do under all circumstances. Because of this as- 
sumption, she is allowed all privileges. She may dis- 
cuss any subjects, however sacred; and nine times out 
of ten she is the soul of tact in dealing with a situation 
that involves any kind of feehng. When she is an ex- 
ception to this rule, she is an unnatural something, a 
freak, an unmeaning torturer who strolls around and 
jerks at tense, quivering nerve. ' To know how to do ' — 
that's a term that means more in the world of women 
than in the world of men. Not a great deal is expected 
of a man. If he keeps his face and linen clean and 
throws his shoulders back and doesn't talk too much, 
that is enough. He may have a great many or very 
few parlor tricks and graces, but they are not essential. 
If he is easy in his manner and doesn't put to shame 
the woman who is with him, he'll get along all right. 
In other words, a man doesn't have to know how to do 
very much, and he can continually learn how to rub off 
the rough places and improve himself. But it is differ- 
ent with a woman. There is no hope for a tactless 

[88] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

woman — the most maimed thing in Hfe. She causes 
more suffering than the toothache, and a worse kind of 
suffering. She hasn't a bad heart ; she means well, and 
she goes into the innermost places and just hops around 
on the tenderest corns. She is a travesty on her sex and 
is to be pitied. In her general demeanor she is like one 
who stabs you under a flag of truce; for the tactless 
woman will go anywhere and dare to do anything. 
Her ailment is incurable and is spotted at a glance. 
To be more correct, one feels her — feels the jar of 
her presence, whether she be active or inactive. 
Carelessly, unknowingly, she goes along making 
sores and trampling on sore places. She is never re- 
buked; one never quarrels with the tactless woman. 
One may not cry out against the hurt that she in- 
flicts. She causes the world to wince in pain, but 
all her victims are silent. And she is everywhere — 
poor, miserable blunderer. 

Every now and then there wanders into the village a The Flirt 
young woman who has achieved a reputation as a scalp- 
taker, and who proceeds to play a little game of hearts 
with the local swains. The result is usually harmless, 
for the woman who has the misfortune to be advertised 
as a professional flirt, has not, as a rule, qualities that 
will make a lasting impression on a man. Nine times 
out of ten the woman who is publicly marked danger- 
ous is not dangerous — except, possibly, to small boys. 
The women who belong to the class that may provoke 
a revolution or send men to the devil may be flirts, but 
the world never thinks to classify them as such. In 
[89] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The Flirt other words, real fascination is a lov/-voiced, quiet- 
moving thing and travels unheralded; and the name 
of the woman who inspires love or does deep hurt is not 
apt to be flaunted. 

* * * 

Flirting is the outcome of civilization and a sign of 
sexual equahty. Our ancestors — good old pirates — 
flirted only with clubs, and it is only in the last few cen- 
turies that their female descendants have been accorded 
the privileges of polite dalliance and a parade of cap- 
tives in dress clothes. 

Fhrting is a game that is played with brains and with- 
out brains, and lacking brains it is as the taste of heavy, 
stale beer. It may be perfection in eyes, hair, form and 
clothes, but unbacked by mental smoothness or finesse 
it is a stupid and a wearisome thing. When two fools 
play the game the gods must laugh, for nothing is more 
ludicrous than a bold tongue's clumsy movement in 
flattery or love-making. 

Is the pastime to be condemned altogether? Of 
course. It too often carries the curse of cheapening the 
man and the woman, or it may cause needless heart- 
aches and remorse. Yet it is a social habit that does 
not weaken under censure. We may hold up Priscilla, 
the Puritan maiden, who voiced sincerity and only that ; 
but yonder is the tilted-chinned daughter of the Cava- 
lier, with a half-challenging, heavy look in her eyes. 
And for her hypocritical, constant, tender, imperious, 
wilful, gentle, mocking, serious self the world will for- 
give much. 

[90] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

And there is the girl who wishes all men to like her, A Man's 
and no man really likes that sort of girl. She always y^^"* 
looks through him for the next man, and hasn't time to 
pause and cultivate one good friend. The girl who 
makes an open bid for popularity and likes anything 
in a man's clothes had better marry quick to save neg- 
lect. Men are shy at heart with a woman who looks 
alike at all men, but they will gladly tie to the kind that 
has common sense and naturalness enough to discrimi- 
nate. The girl who finds unhappiness at the end of a 
campaign for general admiration gets an inevitable 
result and no sympathy. She is a common blunderer 
and too often seen. My lady who is kind-hearted and 
very particular wears well and longest. 
* * * 

"And there's the kind of a woman that a man wants to 
marry," continued the observant man. "She may not 
be beautiful, or clever, or particularly good, but she is 
the sort of person that he would hke to be his wife. 
The man may not propose to her, or be in love with her, 
but mentally, at least, he stamps her for wifehood, and 
long, sweet wear. It is providential that all men do not 
think alike on this subject; but every man has selected 
his own class — has decided as to what woman he thinks 
he, or any other man, ought to be proud to marry. A 
man may not discuss such things, for his judgment 
praises a few women and is not complimentary to the 
majority. Any man, saving a fool, knows that most 
women are far too good for him, but, being a mere man, 
he seeks for the Princess when he comes to wed. He 
finds her according to his taste, and she may be outside 
[91] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

the sacred class that his mind has designated; but his 
ideals are unshattered, and he will go on through life 
marking those who would bless as wife and those who 
wouldn't. 

" The thing is as natural as breathing. Every man 
who knows women is continually making the secret 
dividing line, and every time he talks to a woman he is 
prepared to tell if she belongs to, or is excluded from, 
his Hst of women-for-wives. 

"And a woman? A woman knows quicker than a 
man — knows at a glance. Because she is a finer thing 
her class is stricter as to entries. Sometimes she dies 
after wifehood and motherhood . . . and there have 
been no entries." 

An Enigma But women are more contradictory than men, and, 
therefore, more interesting. The few women who are 
even-tempered and steady-going are the ones you would 
like to tie to, but life is made tumultuous and attractive 
by the women who may be commonplace or eesthetic, or 
sunshine and tempest, all in the space of five minutes. 
Most of the celebrated women in history had an impar- 
tial fondness for murder and babies ; and in every-day 
life one remembers longest the woman who is capable 
of doing anything, and is always doing the thing unex- 
pected. Her variableness is a rare torture and delight. 
She has a figurative range from pig's feet to cream puffs, 
and she may be a big, mannish somebody with a square 
jaw who weeps on your shoulder without provocation, 
or you observe that she is soft and tiny and ethereal and 
as black-hearted and treacherous as the worst of the 

[92] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

Circes. When you have ceased to be surprised at any- 
thing she does you have learned something by experi- 
ence. When she belongs to you, by any sort of right, 
you are blessed if you occasionally know what she is for 
one hour, without caring a baubee what she may be the 
next hour. 

In yesterday's Observer it was perceived that Mr. H. The New 
E. C. Bryant ventured to protest against women drinking °°^a° 
in public. Mr. Bryant was wrong, of course. Women 
have a perfect right to drink and smoke in public 
places. That is part of crying away from thralldom — 
a glorious part of emancipation. Women drink in New 
York and in other large cities, and in a cosmopoHtan 
life it is almost universally conceded that they are privi- 
leged to smoke. Why should man alone be considered 
entitled to the perfumery of a brandy and soda or an 
evil-scented Turkish cigarette? Out on your narrow- 
ness, Mr, Bryant! Your staid old North Carolina sen- 
timent is a jangling note. We are behind the times; 
that is all. We have not yet reached the stage when we 
concede that a woman shall of right be other than wom- 
anly, refined — a dainty, wholesome creature in a back- 
ground of softness and reserve. Thus we are insular, 
indeed. And we shall be hidebound in prejudice, it is 
feared. For, with a Scotchman's yielding stubborn- 
ness, the woman's right to drink and smoke may be 
granted — yes, not cheerily or admiringly, but with con- 
demnation that can be no more courteous than to find 
concealment in a careless, contemptuous smile. Let 
the women drink and smoke, Mr. Bryant; and then 
[93] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

turn away from them and thank God if you know 
women who have clean breath and clear eyes. 

A Coarse "He is the kind of a man who tells dirty jokes to his 
Husband -^jfg^" ^gj^^ ^j^g observant resident, "and he belongs to 
a type that every one knows. It is rather odd that a man 
should marry a young woman, and then try to tarnish 
her by the unnecessary relation of evil things, but such 
accomplishment, according to the estimate of some 
men, is one of the good uses of matrimony. There are 
a great many men who make a point of telling their 
wives the stories that unmarried men tell each other in 
a whisper, and thus the mfe becomes a receptacle for 
knowledge that strikes at her fineness, and is the vic- 
tim of an intimacy that is neither sacred nor honorable. 
One doesn't live long before he discovers that women 
are apt to find out pretty much everything there is to 
know; but no woman who is worth while can feel 
pleased, or interested, or amused when her husband 
seeks to inject humor into the household in the form of 
a dirty joke. How a man shall comport himself toward 
his wife is a man's own affair; yet society everywhere 
is tainted by the foul tales the men carry from the street 
to the ears of their wives." 

The Art of Three college magazines that came to this ofhce re- 
issing ggj^|-iy contained love stories, in which all the heroes, 
in climax, asked the heroines if they wouldn't kiss 'em, 
please. And, of course, they did. The thing brings to 
mind a discussion in this town last week as to whether 
it is usual or proper for a man to ask the interesting 

[94] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

psychological question, or whether it is seemly to just 
proceed. The concensus of opinion seemed to be that 
a man ought to have sense enough, at a certain juncture, 
to take action without embarrassing a friend with a 
useless question. There is a poem about a Danish 
youth who told a girl that he wished he had a magic 
whistle that he had heard about; and if he had it he 
would blow a time or two and then she would let him 
kiss her. She demurely repHed, in effect, that he would 
be foolish to whistle for what he might take without 
wasting breath. That's the idea. You can go ahead — 
or you can't go ahead. But most times when you name 
it you can't have it. 

What a wealth of chrysanthemums there are here The Art of 
now, and how perfectly natural it is that everybody piowers^ 
should like different flowers in a different way. You 
admire chrysanthemums as you admire a large, well- 
dressed, showy sort of woman who has a lot of savoir 
faire and yet is not specially interesting. Chrysanthe- 
mums are too masculine ; and they can be made to look 
apoplectic and ashamed by the side of a white carna- 
tion. Women ought to be very careful about the kind 
of flowers they wear. Some women ought not to be 
allowed to wear violets. They desecrate the tender, 
tremulous things. American Beauty roses ought to be 
jammed into a centrepiece and kept there. They are 
too sensuous for a refined woman to wear. Such color- 
ing is too pronounced in the essence of Buddha's heaven. 
But, seriously speaking, if you watch flowers and eyes, 
you will often find lack of harmony. You can't explain; 
[95] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

but you will feel the jar. Flowers rebuke moods, too; 
and temper or fretfulness is reproached by the rosebud 
below the mutinous hps. One woman in a hundred 
knows how to wear flowers. Flowers are just tacked on 
to the rest. The average woman has an occasional 
right to wear any sort of a flower, but she ought to pray 
earnestly when she pins violets to her dress. For vio- 
lets are quite human, you know. Somewhere or other 
there's a land of quiet, restful beauty where the laugh 
of a child is the harshest note of joy and where violets, 
forever clean and wet with the dew-mist, rustle softly 
in the eternal breath of peace — purity. 

The Art A man who is a sensible man was bothered over 
^Presents selecting a present to send a young woman, and many 
men got together and discussed the right thing to do. 
Opinions varied. Some said jewellery, but that is too 
dangerous and delicate a matter to argue about. Others 
said books, and books are always safe and cheap. It is 
singular, however, that the woman who is certain to 
appreciate most highly your gift of a book is exactly the 
kind of a person to whom you would like to give a house 
and lot. As a rule, books make the greatest hit with 
your aged relatives, with people who are not hterary, or 
with one particular woman who reads you between the 
lines. Most discussions about presents to a woman end 
by trying to decide whether she would prefer candy or 
flowers. Every woman Hkes candy, but the woman who 
prefers flowers to candy — and violets to American 
Beauty roses — is apt to be the same curious woman who 
will set more store by a book than a diamond brooch. 

[96] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

The woman to whom anything may be given, in utter 
safety, is the woman who picks up a flower and presses 
it and keeps it forever. The most intimate possessions 
of the most womanly woman show that she is altogether 
crazy and perfectly delicious. 

Recently things have happened here that make one The 
speculate about the quahty of human love. You may iI^q^ 
have observed that things Uke that happen frequently. 
In truth, we are always being placed in the position of 
level-headed onlookers who wonder why one person 
loves, or doesn't love, another person. And generally 
amazement is caused by the love that continues to love. 

In a lifetime each man and each woman understands 
how and why any man could love a dozen women, but 
one man and all women cannot understand how or why 
any woman can love but one man. If it is The Other 
Man, all men are curious and puzzled, while the other 
women are sympathetic and puzzled. This is a way of 
saying that it is much easier to love a woman than to 
love a man; and in a love affair in which you yourself 
are not involved, you are given opportunity to be mys- 
tified. 

* * * 

Some months ago this paper reprinted a smartly 
written article that described in detail the causes that 
inspired love. It was absurd, of course. The enumera- 
tion of good qualities and the lordly count of attributes 
come after the loving, which, unguided by choice, may 
be based on the nice discrimination of a fool. If one 
had a chance to vivisect the smooth, undisturbed loves 
7 [97] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The that send to church, build up homes and caress gray 
^^*^S)ve l^^^^s, he would find that in their deepest strength these 
are reasonless and that after all there is not a great deal 
of difference between these and the love that is held up 
to the pubHc gaze because it lives, with a glad sigh, after 
betrayal. Before a man is old he finds that any love 
that is really worth while is self-sufficient and will five 
beyond faithlessness, and then he goes out and has his 
say in the chattering world which discusses the wisdom 
or unwisdom of the failing. 

* * * 

The greatest blessing that can be given a man or a 
woman is a love that will live always. If there be re- 
quital in kind, then two people are to be numbered 
among the elect, but the falseness of the one brings the 
worst misery if it causes the love of the other to die. 

* * * 

There was a woman here and she sat by the side of a 
man day after day, and the love-Hght in her eyes never 
faltered, though the world looked at her and said she 
was foolish because the man had been unfaithful. Peo- 
ple said, "How can she still care ? " or " She should leave 
him!" but the woman smiled and softly touched the 
man again. What she really thinks no one knows ; what 
she feels thousands saw, and thousands said she was 
unwise in not ceasing to care. The woman was right 
for two odd reasons. She could not have stopped loving 
the man if she had wanted to; and if she could have 
lost her love, what on earth would she have had left? 
She gave everything and received nothing, but that was 

[98] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

her happiness. There was exaltation in her love. It The 
stood alone, a bright, beautiful thing, supporting her, lotc^^ 
intensifying her courage. She fed on it eagerly and it 
never failed to sustain her. It was in the tremulous 
movement of her hands, in the droop of an eyelid; it 
was the mainstay of her existence. Suppose she had 
been robbed of this. Why, if that love had weakened or 
lessened she would have been infinitely more miserable 
than she was over all the terror and the heartache and 
the cruel tales. To have love to die on one's hand, to 
have ardor give way to weariness, to recognize the first 
touch of distaste, to feel the slower rushing of the blood 
— ah, 'tis a curse! 

The world said, ungallantly, that the woman was a 
fool, while the woman continued to twist her hands in 
her lap and showed in her eyes that she had God's 
priceless gift. 

* * * 

People shudder over a passion that is misplaced, or 
speak contemptuously of a love that exists beyond its 
reward, but such feeHng is the one human emotion that 
deifies, and the real pity must go to the love that is 
checked by reason, or time, or any circumstance this 
side the grave. If one loves hopelessly, he is forever 
blessed if he loves in the full strength of that term. 

* * * 

And the woman, if she had been the lowliest and in 
tatters, was glorified. She was to be envied. In its hold- 
ing of happiness, life is, at the last analysis, a one-man 
or a one-woman proposition, and if God had bestowed 
[99] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The on us a feeling such as the woman has He is good even 
^^*^S)ve ^^ -^^ points it at a dog, or a man-thing that reeks in the 
gutter, or a woman-thing that speaks to shame her sex. 
^fi ^ ^ 

If Mrs. Burdick had been a character in a book she 
would have clenched her hands and perjured her soul, 
if need be, in her determination to protect as far as pos- 
sible, at least, one of the two men. Her attitude was in 
strange contrast to the testimony of a young woman in 
this State who was the principal personage in a murder 
trial that occurred some years ago. She had suffered 
more than any one else and had reason to be vengeful 
toward one man who was intimately connected with the 
homicide. But when questioned about this man she 
said simply, "I love him now better than I love my 
God." The statement was not essential in her evidence 
and could have no effect on the verdict of the jury, and 
yet placed a wrecked life on a high plane. The woman 
made no excuse for what she had done, but in the pres- 
ence of the man who had betrayed her and cared noth- 
ing for her, she lifted up a dead white face and dignified 
forever her own ruin. In the pubHc mind she became 
at once the sacrificial and best element in the tragedy, 
and her conduct was at once forgivable to a world 
which was not permitted to show its forgiveness. 
* * * 

Where naked tragedies are seen, or where the large 

human passions come into play, one is curiously 

shocked by a display of a weakness that spells littleness. 

In a consideration of such matters there is in us a thing 

[loo] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

that will make us look understandingly and leniently 
upon any emotion that is big, brave, and daring, no 
matter how bad it is. This is a primeval instinct, which 
has fineness enough to abhor anything that crawls or 
stammers or shows fight in the face of a situation that 
is made or controlled by the supreme workings of love 
or hate. 

H* ^ ^ 

It is rather odd that a woman should be content to 
Hve forever with a thing like a man, isn't it? As one 
grows older, he knows that such living is the chiefest 
blessing, but he is forced to conclude, without being 
sceptical or unfair, that the woman gives more than the 
man. 'Tis an old theme; and yet if you walk to the 
square and stand ten minutes, you will see a woman 
who is not properly appreciated by a man. The injus- 
tice has so thrived that it has become natural, or seems 
natural, and yet the every-day fresh evidence of it kind 
of hurts, somehow. Women — the oldest women — re- 
tain girlishness, and men forget this — forget, in their 
ambition or business cares, that women do not lose sen- 
timent or dainty fineness or wish for notice of little bits 
of feminine things. There is a man and he kisses his 
wife's hand and still admires her feet, and she is over 
seventy and as happy as a queen. 

The woman and the child and the man climbed on Hopeless 
the street car. The woman had a heavily lined face designation 
and looked as if she had suffered so much that she had 
gotten used to it. She was very thin and tired-looking, 
but her dress was clean and neat. The child, a little girl, 

[lOl] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

also wore a dress that was fresh and dainty, for all its 
cheapness. The man's clothes had seen better days, 
but they were well patched and darned — looked as if a 
deft-fingered woman was continually bothering over 
them. The man's nose was red and his eyes were wat- 
ery. His mouth was very weak. He seemed restless, 
and crossed and uncrossed his legs. The conductor 
came and stopped in front of the man. The man looked 
at the woman and kept his hands in his pockets. The 
woman opened her purse and after close search pro- 
duced a quarter. The conductor took the silver and 
held out ten cents. Hurriedly the man reached out and 
grabbed the dime. His watery eyes glistened. He 
turned his face away when the woman looked at him. 
Hopeless resignation dulled the woman's eyes. Her 
under lip trembled. 

Happiness In the western part of this State there was a woman 
Madhouse ^^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^ good woman. She married when she was 
young and she had many children; and she nursed and 
cooked and stinted and kept her nose to the grindstone 
for thirty years or more. She had, to begin with, senti- 
mental eyes and an imaginative temperament ; but her 
sole recreation during the best years of her life was rid- 
ing four miles to church every Sunday morning, and 
her greatest social amusement consisted in feeding the 
preacher who always wore a goose-quill tooth pick. 
Her husband died ; her children grew up and married ; 
and she, uncertain in her head, was taken to a hospital 
for those who be mentally unwell. And she found Para- 
dise on earth. She foregathered with a lot of other old 
[102] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

ladies who wore their Sunday clothes all the time; sat 
in sunshiny corners and knitted; talked baby lore and 
the making of pies ; did all things in amity and labored 
not at all. At length she, too, was cured and sent away 
— back to the half -deserted home and the ever-present 
grind. But the memory of the other old ladies with 
their dehghtful illusions and their embroidery, and the 
rocking chair close to the geranium pots, lingered with 
her and she wept inconsolably. And she, nine times a 
mother and a woman of consequence in the work-a-day 
world, made her people take her back to the madhouse. 
When the heavy doors had closed behind her, she went 
down the long corridor with a girlish flush on her cheek 
and a bright light in her eyes. For in the little group 
that plied needles at the end of the narrow carpeted 
lane she had found the only rest and peace she had 
ever known. 

The oldest woman in town died the other day. She The Oldest 
died happily. She had hved happily — had been "the ^°°^^ 
mother of a church," and had left undone nothing in 
her small sphere of living. But there is no record of 
her having been proud of being the oldest woman. The 
only "oldest" persons who are proud of their lot are 
those who live in far-away places and hold corn cob 
pipes between aged gums. For there's pathos here — 
gaunt, grim solitude. To stand bowed, enfeebled 
among a strange generation — 'tis pitiful, no matter if 
one's own flesh and blood are close by to lend support. 
The oldest person! . . . The sun is almost down and 
there is chilUness in the atmosphere. The eyes rest on 



IDLE COMMENTS 

a sea of graves. Buried there are all those who could 
understand. Did you ever know the oldest person? 
Then you knew one who found happiness only in mem- 
ory. If the present brings peace and rest, the present 
can do no more. 

The "Women, you know," said the observant man, 
S^an^Old "iiever grow old at heart, though the world forces them 
Woman to think they are old. They become dispirited through 
suffering, or embittered through disappointment, or 
very, very tired through general causes, and they wear 
the mantle of age gracefully or unprettily, but the spirit 
of youthfulness remains in the normal woman until she 
dies. There came to the square the other day an oldish 
lady, and, as some one spoke to her, her face glowed 
for a fleeting moment with a girhsh flush. The place 
seemed illumined. The light on her face adorned, yet 
seemed to defy, the white hair and the marks of care 
and time, and it was as triumphantly young as the 
quick leap of a schoolgirl's heart. In the transient ex- 
pression were kindness, understanding, sympathy. 
. . . The aged woman tottered to her car; and I be- 
gan wondering about mankind's universal stupidity 
and carelessness. Old ladies are too often shelved. 
People are good to them and entertain them in the best 
company room and wait on 'em respectfully; but 
there's not enough love and appreciation for the old 
lady. Why, an old woman is the epitome of tenderness. 
She can soothe the hard, dry grief of manhood and 
prattle gleefully with a child. She is filled with a wealth 
of feeling and has exhausted no emotion. The touch 
[104] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

of her fragile hand is a blessing and caress. If right 
were right, men could but make love to old ladies." 

Dying must be pretty hard when one can't reach out The Last 
his hand and touch a woman. Each life is apt to be a ^°"^^ 
solitary, misunderstood thing; and all, or the best of, 
understanding and comfort can only come just through 
a woman. A man, in a man's fine strength, may live 
as a man pleases, but when the great darkness of the 
Unknown is suffocating his heart . . . there should be 
a woman who has the right — and a love of her right — 
to come close and closer and speak in a low voice and 
gently. Possibly this may seem a plea for the good use 
of matrimony. It is immediately mindful of how easy 
it would be to die if a man's mother were with him. For 
apart from a mother's love, the sureness of love is acci- 
dental, or incidental, or of uncertain tenure. 

Fallen women! These are the human beings that the Fallen 
Florence Crittenton Mission wishes to save by estab- '^^^°- 
lishing a rescue home in this city. The charity under- 
takes a task that is desperately hard, for since man was 
born he has placed furthest from redemption women 
who have sinned. This is one of the just-so things, and 
we can't reason about it very clearly. Men do not be- 
come "fallen," and their degradation is never so com- 
plete that they cannot be pulled back into the esteem 
of their fellow men. All ages have wrestled over the 
problem, and have inveighed against the unfairness that 
has been shown women, but the matter remains as it 
was in the days of the Old Testament. A man may de- 
[105] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Fallen file himself and yet live to make his fellows remember 
Women ^^-^y his virtues, but a v^oman who has cheapened her- 
self is blessed beyond hope if she can escape, even after 
death, the taint of an unmentionable name. This is the 
bitter, merciless judgment of the world, and it will be 
the judgment of the world till the world is dead. 

* * * 

All of you have seen the distinction that is made be- 
tween the man and the woman, and though you may 
protest, you still continue to assist all people in making 
the distinction. Two persons — a brother and a sister — 
left a little home in the country not a great distance 
from here. The woman was caught in the vortex and 
passed from hand to hand, but the man did worse than 
she, though, by his own count and in the opinion of 
those who knew him best, this was not held to be so. 
He may return — as he does return — to that simple 
home, and in his welcome there is never a doubt, ques- 
tion, or reproach. He looks into his mother's eyes and 
he faces the preacher at church, but there is no trouble 
in his heart and no sign of guilt on his countenance. 
But the sister will never go back into that house, and, 
being typical of her kind, she will never ask to be taken 
back. In God's eyes she has sinned less than her broth- 
er, but her father and her mother will never forgive her, 
and, worse than all, she will never forgive herself. She 
belongs to that class the rescue work is trying to touch 
— a class that may be characterized in pity, not criti- 
cism, as forsaken, hunted, haunted, restless, wretched, 
hopeless. 

[io6] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

A woman is a finer and a more precious thing than a 
man. She feels this without reasoning about it, and 
the curse of utter blackness comes when she loses her 
self-respect. She goes down and down, while everybody 
and everything fight against her, and she never fights 
for self-recovery. And men nag her with a superb 
scorn. For all men are Pharisees with women. We 
hold them to strict account for every misdeed and for- 
give them nothing — bring them to infamy and, laugh- 
ing, leave them there. We do this without apology and 
we will never apologize, for in this matter it is our nat- 
ural bent to be as remorseless as the grave and to declare 
that a woman who sins is lost through eternity. 

On a dreary, rainy night like this the reporter who The Girl_ 
saw the letter wonders what became of the brown- j^ress 
haired girl in a white dress who ran away from home a 
year ago, came to this city, and then disappeared. You 
see, her mother said she was a slender little girl with blue 
eyes and was very ignorant of the world and its tempta- 
tions. And a girl like that ought to be found and taken 
back to her home. But she was not found, and they've 
no idea where she is. She had wavy, soft brown hair 
. . . and a clean, white dress. And she must have had 
innocence in her eyes. The reporter can't forget the 
picture and he is wondering if the girl can forget it. And 
if she remembers it, does memory — hurt ? . . . A clean, 
white dress; and it is raining outside, and rain and 
other things defile — white. Ah, the pathos! A maiden 
walked forth into a land filled with strangers, and to a 
maiden a stranger's touch may be rude. And did the 
[107] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

world help to keep the white dress clean ? The vainless 
wonder! Yet 'tis raining bitter hard and there is 
a great wet gloom. . . . Where is the mother's girl 
in the dark — this maiden that went out clean and 
white? 

The Rescue So the rescue home has assumed a task that will re- 
°^® quire all of fortitude and dehcacy, and it deserves the 
large encouragement that should support a heroic 
cause. Among the unfortunates that the mission will 
endeavor to reform there are those who will die with 
the paint on their faces, and alone, as dogs die. But 
there are others who have not lost good or womanli- 
ness, and they are sick at heart with an existence that 
now offers no release from bondage. They have found 
that in the long run their way is a disordered way that 
will permit naught of pleasure, naught of consolation, 
naught of heartsease ; and they would be clean because 
the wish for cleanness dies hard in a woman. But 
they are suspicious by training and sensitive beyond 
their rights, and they must be dealt with carefully. If 
you would reform a man you pat him on the back and 
make him sit at your table ; but you would visit a fallen 
woman secretly, and you would consider yourself good 
if you kept reproach and lashing pity from showing in 
your eyes. Adopt a new plan here if you wish to do the 
right, and give to the unfortunates a kindness that does 
not patronize and a sympathy that is not feigned. They 
will need, not tracts, but gentleness, and not the 
preached painting of their scarlet sins, but a tender, in- 
sistent holding by the hand and a soft word of under- 
[io8] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

standing. If you are going to do this hazardous thing, The Rescue 
then, in God's name, go the Hmit in love. Home 

* * * 

How would it do to make the proposed rescue home 
a place for the prevention, rather than a cure, for the 
saddest evil in the world ? The home proposes to pluck 
girls from an abyss. Why not make it lift a hand to 
keep them out of it? That little girl who came here 
from Reidsville last week, and went hellward in Springs' 
Alley, was hungry. She hadn't a cent of money. She 
was in a strange place ; she was young, healthy, lonely 
and — hungry. She is now in Springs' Alley, but suppose 
she had known that there was some place she could go 
to and be cared for till she got work to do ? Last year 
a "blue-eyed girl, wearing a clean, white dress," left 
her home in Cleveland County and came here — alone. 
She knew not sin. But she was penniless, and in the 
darkened city there was welcome to her only from foul- 
mouthed hags who trade in human souls. And so the 
child stumbled on into the night, and her blue eyes be- 
came dulled and her white dress was besmirched. Sup- 
pose — but why suppose ? You know the condition that 
exists. Continually there come to this town young girls 
who seek work. They are helpless, ignorant, unpro- 
tected. What salvation might come if they knew that 
when temptation is hardest they can flee to a house of 
refuge that is gentle and shames not ? It is all right to 
drag the unfortunates from their painted misery, but is 
it not better to fight for the clear-eyed children who do 
not want to fall, yet must fall ? 
[109] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The Agony " Emma Reese, the girl who swallowed crushed glass, 
of a ^°^^^ is having convulsions, and, they say, she is about to die," 
said Sergeant Farrington to an Observer reporter last 
night at ten o'clock. "I am going to get a doctor and 
go out to see her. Do you wish to go?" And the re- 
porter, who did not wish to go, went. 

Dr. F. O. Hawley, the city physician, accompanied 
the sergeant and the reporter. Farrington had 'phoned 
another physician, but the latter said: 

"It's no use. There is nothing to do but to give her 
morphine." But Farrington, as big-hearted a man as 
lived, was not easy in his mind until he had brought 
the physician to the side of the suffering girl. 

The carriage stopped in front of a small house on 
Middle Street. Several men stood on the porch and 
peered into an open door and an open window. Close 
to the window there was a bed, on which lay a young 
girl whose white, drawn face was framed in dark, dis- 
hevelled hair. 

"Will she die?" the reporter had asked. 

"If she Hves it will be a miracle," replied Dr. Haw- 
ley. 

And such death — such dying 1 The beggars, the low- 
liest who live in all the earth, are given the right to at 
least die with a certain dignity ; but this child is passing 
within sound of the ribald jest, under the curious scru- 
tiny of bold eyes — passing under the touch of the 
painted women. 

The entrance of the physician, the sergeant of police, 
and the reporter crowded the small room. Four or five 
men walked to and fro at will. They did never remove 
[iioj 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

their hats. Why should they ? The room was man's The Agony 
common property, and here was only an outcast who q^ Young 
was stricken. The women came in kindness, in minis- 
tration. They are such as one knows them to be — no 
better than they should be; guised as women, yet not 
fashioned to move by death beds. 

Privacy! The room was open to the world. The 
light from the big lamp on the bureau gleamed out into 
the night and made a beacon, beckoning all men who 
wandered stealthily by night to come quickly and see 
the child die. There was no hand to restrain. Here was 
a rare sight, a man's plaything — a creature that had 
been rudely broken at life's wheel. So! The spectacle 
is inviting. 'Tis not every day that a young girl is per- 
mitted to die under the full, strong glare of a morbid 
public. 

Chief of Pohce Irwin came to the scene and cried 
against the disgrace of the thing. Thrice before he 
had protested, but to no avail. When he left the house 
the leering tribe crept back and crouched and waited 
like so many ghouls. 

The girl was indifferent. The spasm of agony had 
passed under the morphine and she looked out listlessly 
from tired eyes. A dozen people jabbered at once and 
she did not Hsten. 

Crossness — if there had been grossness — had gone 
from a face that was purified. by pain. "I am not eigh- 
teen, but sixteen, years old," she said, and she seemed 
hardly so old. As her lithe young body was outstretched 
to find anxious ease, she seemed so pitifully young. In 
the entreaty in the dark eyes, in the wearied expression 
[III] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The Agony of the face, and in the clean, fresh, white that encom- 
^ G^f passed her, one found a spirituelle quahty, and then 
lifted his eyes to see the sensuahsm that suffocated the 
room. 

For a little while the girl was unnoticed except by the 
reporter. Did she wish to talk ? Yes ; that might ease 
her. Then 

"Why?" 

"Because I had not a friend in the world," was the 
reply. 

"You see," she continued, "I was not suited for the 
life I was leading, I came here from Asheville, three 
months ago, to work in a cotton mill. I did not work in 
the mill long. After that — after I came here I was al- 
ways unhappy." 

She paused, and a perfumed young girl with curled 
hair who came to lie on the side of the bed leaned over 
and said that Emma must not talk if it hurt. But 
Emma Reese said she wanted to talk. 

"Emma Williams, the woman that I live with here, 
went to Spartanburg," she said, "and I was all alone. 
I had no money; not a Uving person to whom I could 
go about anything. Emma had gotten into trouble, and 
because of that the police said I must leave town. There 
was nowhere for me to go. There was nothing for me to 
do but to die. Relatives ? Yes, I have a mother living 
somewhere — in Dillsboro, I think, but I have not heard 
from her in a long time, 

" The broken glass ? Why, I took that because I had 
nothing else to kill myself with. I tried to borrow some 
morphine or laudanum, but everybody seemed to know 

[112] 



WOMAN AND HER WORLD 

what I wanted with it and they wouldn't let me have it. The Agony 
So I came home and broke a bottle into little pieces and qj3 Young 
swallowed the cracked glass in a spoon. Oh, but I 
wanted to die and die quick. I didn't know that the 
glass would be like it is ; I thought I would die before 
night. And here 

"I don't want to die now. I say, I want to live — so. 
But I suppose I can't. If I could only take back that 
— glass. But, I say, what was there for me to do. I 
was so miserable. And there was no place for me to go. 
And I didn't have a single friend in the world." 

There was nothing for the doctor to do? "I was so 
miserable." And there was more morphine. 'Tis a rest- 
less game of wait. Glass is not quick, but sure and in- 
sidious in its methods. For several hours after Emma 
Reese swallowed the contents of the spoon she felt but 
httle inconvenience, but then pain came in quick, sharp 
tugs and gnawed fiercely. 

"Her condition to-day is worse than it was yester- 
day," said Dr. Hawley. "I see not the least sign of 
hope for her." 

To-day an effort will be made to take the girl to one 
of the local hospitals. In mercy she should be taken 
there. If she lives by any unhoped-for chance, let her 
recover in a healthy atmosphere; if she dies, in pity's 
name, don't let her last glance rest on the signs and the 
habiliments of the painted women. 

For no matter what she was, she is now but a child — 
a poor young girl who is wretched and repentant. 

"That is a sad case," said the chief of police, as he 
was returning from the house. "Three weeks ago that 

8 [113] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The Agony girl told Officer Shields that she wanted to reform, and 
of a Young 2^g]^g(j f Qj. iielp. The matter was taken up by Recorder 
Shannonhouse, and I sent word that I would give the 
girl a raihoad ticket to get out of town. We would have 
helped her all we could ; but in a few days Emma Wil- 
liams got into trouble, and she and Emma Reese, who 
was a witness in the case, were warned to leave town. 
She took the glass on the day she had to leave. 

"The law does not protect fallen women, chief?" 

"No," rephed the chief of poUce, who, as the reporter 
knew, is always ready to aid the unfortunates in any 
possible manner. 

"We learn some terrible things," added Chief Irwin. 
" Two nights ago a white girl from Reids\dlle, who was 
so young that she wore short dresses, came to a house 
in Springs' Alley. The old woman in charge refused 
her admission, and 'phoned to me. I have tried to find 
that child, but I can't. She is lost somewhere in Springs' 
Alley." 

Lost in Springs' Alley. 

Lost in hell! 



[114 1 



CHAPTER VI 



CHILDREN 



Swathed in clothes enough to suffocate him, and A Baby's 
handled as carefully as if he had been the only jellyfish ^^* 
in the world, a new baby was carried down the steps the 
other day and given his first view of the world. A spec- 
tator, who realized that he was in the presence of an 
awe-inspiring proposition, took careful note of the sur- 
roundings. The only things in sight of the baby after 
he came into the open were a small negro boy leading a 
poor cow, a homely man with a red nose, a young 
woman with an ill-fitting skirt, the iceman, a country 
dog, and a lot of trees covered with dead, yellow leaves. 
And the baby cried. Of course he cried. He and the 
tired woman with the love-lighted eyes had been staying 
in there together having such a dreamy, comfy time 
talking and crooning to each other ; and he had build ed 
a grand vision of the outside, sunshiny place where the 
birds sang and flowers wafted faint perfumery. And 
here were the nose, the dog, and the iceman. Certainly 
he was disappointed and wept and wanted to go back 
and be with the low-voiced, tired woman. He knew 
that he hadn't been treated fairly, and he rightly argued 
that when a baby leaves the dark room for the first 
time he should enjoy a bigger celebration than any 



IDLE COMMENTS 

debutante. There should be only beautiful people on 
the premises, and a wealth of flowers, and somebody 
should sing a Christmas carol. The formal introduc- 
tion to the new kingdom where he must live and love 
and suffer, and suffer and love and Hve and die should 
be triumphant and gladsome. For, after all, who can 
gauge the importance of the first world-impression on 
the tiny soul — ^just out from Heaven and soon to creep 
out from the love-lighted eyes ? 

A Little A young woman of four years of age ran away from 
Runaway j^^j. j^^j^g jj^ ^j^jg ^^jj-y \^^^ week. She went out into the 

world and stayed for a long time — for her — and when 
she was found at last and brought back to her home she 
had nothing to regret, and her memories were fraught 
only with big adventure and innocent pleasure. The 
police had a record about a child lost, and afterward 
a child found, and there was some mention in the paper 
about the gladness of her parents ; and that is all there 
was of this wonderful episode. 
* * * 

Even a very beautiful poem, with all the right words 
in the right place, could hardly do justice to the perfect 
experience of this little woman. Before she left home 
her world had been Hmited to her nurse, her people, her 
toys, and a dozen or so folk who took liberties with her 
hair and kissed her without being asked to do so. So 
the Httle maid mutinied within herself and sighed for 
the larger freedom which, she imagined, began at the 
far corner of the opposite block. One day — and it was 
a very fresh and dehghtful day, with plenty of sunshine 
[ii6] 



CHILDREN 

— she waited till the watchers drowsed, and then she A Little 
wandered into the unknown place. Soon the mystic ^'^"^^^y 
corner was passed, and the maiden was a stranger in a 
strange land. 

* * * 

There is no reproach or disappointment to mar the 
travels of the little lady. She was very tiny, but so con- 
fident and fearless in her bearing that no one molested 
her or asked her why or whither she journeyed. Strange 
men and women, horses, cows, dogs, children — she 
passed them all, gaining new impressions at every step. 
She saw no evil, no unhappiness as she hurried out into 
the mysterious world. No one held out a detaining 
hand; she had all liberty, and this never meant any- 
thing less than peace, contentment, and, maybe, the 

fulfillment of ideals. 

* * * 

After the little maid had passed through the world 
and its madding crowd, it is altogether seemly that her 
journey should have ended by the side of a brook. She 
was content to stop here where there were restfulness 
and quiet save for the murmur of the little river. She 
was only a mile from home. In her own mind the dis- 
tance might have been a million miles and a lifetime. 
And she had nothing to regret. She had seen all that 
there was to be seen and there had been no disillusion- 
ment. 

* * * 

The return home — the greatest of all tests — brought 
no fear, left nothing in completion of joy. Her faith in 
the world was so simple and genuine that, after she had 
[117] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

become a little tired, she was not at all surprised when 
a man with a kindly face came to her, lifted her in his 
arms and carried her to her people. They wept in their 
gladness, but the maiden's eyes were bright and clear. 
She was so fresh to life that her own mystery -ideas were 
not clear, and certainly could not be analyzed ; but she 
must have felt that she had exhausted all of living and 
adventure — and all was good. 



Aye, child, you have accomplished the impossible. 
You went out, saw all that you cared to see, were not 
tempted to look in dark places — and came back with 
fearless eyes, unscarred, not embittered, unashamed. 
Oh, little girl, what a lesson you teach ! 

New-fangled They've stopped rocking the baby now, and before he 
About ^^ ^^*^ years old he is taught to say isn't instead of ain't. 
Babies This is part of the kindergarten system which is death 
to goo-goo talk, and teaches a child to parse with blocks 
of wood and toy horses before he has seen five sum- 
mers. The old-fashioned, fat, clumsy baby who went 
to sleep while he was being tossed from one end of the 
room to the other in the hereditary cradle, and awoke 
to stumble around and mumble, unrebuked, a language 
of his own — that baby is a back number. 

* * * 

They are saying nowadays that rocking a baby is not 
at all good for him, and if you keep on rocking him his 
brains will get scrambly and he will become addle-pated. 
[ii8J 



CHILDREN 

The modern baby, recently imported, is placed in a sta- Newfangled 
tionary basket, just as if he were a newly purchased Abouf^ 
Maltese cat ; and no matter how dear he may look when Babies 
he 'blinks his eyes to sneeze, or puts his pink toe in his 
mouth, nobody ever thinks of leaning over him and 
telling him he is a tootsie-wootsie. He has three-sylla- 
ble words pounded at him while he is still breathing out 
of the top of his head and before he has any backbone 
at all. Of course this will breed pride, a disinclination 
to put everything that he sees in his mouth, and an early 
aversion to mud pies. He is up against an entirely new 
condition. All, or nearly all, the old black mammies are 
dead; the young nurses have a grammar school educa- 
tion, and his mother is a member of a latter-day cult 
which treats an infant as if he were a rational human 
being. 

* * * 

The subject is not laughable. You go out on the 
streets any day and you'll see a lot of babies that look 
as if they had lived in Boston before they were born. 
They are so proper and knowing-looking. And if you 
forget yourself and indulge in any of the simpering, 
minus-g talk that soothed you when you first imbibed 
out of the neck of a bottle, you are apt to get a dignified, 
reproachful look that will chill you to your marrow. 
The modern baby is really very fearsome. Nobody ever 
sings Him a foolish old plantation ditty ; nobody ever 
edifies Him by crying boo-ah, boo! Nobody even lets 
Him endeavor to pull the tail out of a cat or toddle 
around with a face that is sweet beyond his ears and 
years. 

[119] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The future only can declare the wisdom or unwis- 
dom of the new plan. " Manhood is but the dusty ware- 
room where are stored life's broken dreams;" and the 
journey that began with a fast, jerky ride in a cradle, 
ended on the first summer day that brought unused 
shoes to young feet, and included unhmited dirt and 
goo-goo speech, is the only period in Hfe that is allowed 
to be perfect. 

Miss Speaking of juvenile things, have you read the chil- 
as am ^^.^^ stories of Miss Josephine Dodge Daskam, the 
most dehghtful woman writer in America? In a vol- 
ume entitled "The Madness of Philip," and containing 
a number of short stories, she exposes the heart of a 
child, or the hearts of many children. In all literature 
the book has no hkeness. The majority of authors 
stoop to write about children, treat them in a patroniz- 
ing, unknowing sort of way. But Miss Daskam shows 
the inner emotions of a child's soul, and her words ring 
true. She is anything else but conventional; but her 
art is a delicate, beautiful reahsm. And the true picture 
of a child is always refreshing. 

"Mother- It was Miss Daskam, by the way, who wrote that 
great, fierce poem, "Motherhood," which appeared in 
Scribner's last year, and which has been reproduced in 
this paper, but is reprinted here because it is the most 
beautiful thing of its kind that was ever written. 

"The night throbs on, but let me pray, dear Lord! 
Brush off his name a moment from my mouth. 
To Thee mine eyes would turn, but they go back, 
[I20] 



CHILDREN 

Back to my arm beside me where he lay — 
So little, Lord, so little and so warm ? 

I cannot think that Thou had'st need of him! 
He is so little, Lord, he cannot sing. 
He cannot praise Thee; all his lips had learned 
Was to hold fast my kisses in the night. 

Give him to me — he is not happy there I 
He had not felt his life; his lovely eyes 
Just knew me for his mother and he died. 

Hast Thou an angel there to mother him ? 

I say he loves me best — if he forgets, 

If Thou allow it that my child forgets, 

And runs not out to meet me when I come — 

What are my curses to Thee ? Thou hast heard 

The curse of Abel's mother, and since then 

We have not ceased to threaten at Thy throne. 

To threat and pray Thee that Thou hold them still 

In memory of us. 

See Thou tend him well. 
Thou God of all the mothers! If he lack 
One of his kisses — ah, my heart, my heart, 
Do angels kiss in heaven ? Give him back! 

Forgive me, Lord, but I am sick with grief, 
And tired to tears and cold to comforting. 
Thou art wise, I know, and tender, aye, and good. 
Thou hast my child and he is safe with Thee. 
And I believe 

Ah God, my child shall go 
Orphaned and among the angels! All alone. 
So little and alone ! He knows not Thee, 
He only knows his mother — give him back!" 

"I saw a man mistreat his small son to-day," said the A Child's 
observant resident, "and I know that some day the child injustice 
will look down the years with a man's eyes and count 
the thing in his estimate of his father." In his secret 
heart every living man pities one creature above all 

[121] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

A Child's others. 'Tis himself as a child. His remembrance of 

tdustice ^^^ °^^ ^^^^ youth may please him ; his childhood may 

have been good and happy; yet his heart will surge 

with pity for the little unseeing, unknowing person who 

— whatever he was — was helpless. 

* * * 

All of us are apt to have an acute recollection of the 
important incidents in our childhood, and the things 
that meant big pleasure, or suffering, or injustice do 
not seem smaller as the years pass. A child draws con- 
clusions ignorantly or blindly, but years afterward the 
man looks back and sees the truth. If he is the right sort 
of man he will still be grateful for the punishment that 
was deserved and for his own welfare, but when his 
hair is white he will not forget the unfairness or harsh- 
ness that may have clouded his life when he was not 
more than six years of age. It may be against his will, 
but he must sit in judgment on all people who reached 
out hands to touch the Hfe of that child. Matters un- 
heeded then, or overlooked, or misunderstood, rise viv- 
idly under the inspection of sober, experienced eyes, and 
the man knows the truth and must — in spite of himself 
— place it in the scales that measure the estimate of an- 
other's life. 

* * * 

Men treat men with diplomacy and not always with 
sincerity; but the man remembers that his cMld's eyes 
saw men and women as they were. He did not under- 
stand them then. He understands them now, and he 
must judge them now for what they were then. For the 
memory of childhood does not die. 'Tis the one thing 
[122] 



CHILDREN 

left to him who mumbles at the side of the hearth — too 
old to move. What happened in the rush of manhood 
was not keenly registered on the passing senses, but the 
child had seen fresh, glowing pictures that are still seen 
clearly and understandingly through the mist of the 
threescore years. And the man whose head is bowed 
with age must yet brood awhile over the unjust anger 
or the cruelty that brought pain and humiliation to the 
tender, pitiful child who lived in the long ago. 

iH * * 

Children should be treated not as fools, but ration- 
ally; firmly, sternly, if you please, but justly, kindly, 
and, over and above all, fairly. See! Yonder is a man 
who is handling his boy as if he were some little tame 
animal, and he wouldn't hesitate to deceive him half a 
dozen times a day. Yet if that father would pause to 
think, he would know that some day his son will see 
him as unerringly as you and I see him now. And the 
final condemnation of a child lives till hfe dies. 

Do children really suffer mentally? Suffer! Why, Sorrows of 
there is no agony on earth more exquisite than the suf- ^ " °° 
fering of a young child. You are grown up now and 
think you have forgotten, but you haven't. When you 
come to die, or in tense moments, you will feel that you 
have a great white scar that marks the supreme, wild 
sorrow that possessed your helpless child's soul. Can't 
you understand the swift, clean agony that came to that 
little girl as she tottered over to save that burning doll 
with the eyes of China blue — her doll — her child ? Suf- 
fer — a child suffer? The man immersed in business 



IDLE COMMENTS 

cares flinches even now when he looks back on the years 
and remembers the death of the dog, his dog, that died 
when he was young and tender — flinches at keen recol- 
lection of the cold, bleak sky, the stillness in the atmos- 
phere, and the Httle dark body that romped no longer 
but lay cold and inert. The bitter, bitter wail that 
choked the throat then might have filled a universe 
with its sadness. Children are the playthings of Grief — 
a thing that the added years teaches one to fight and, 
God wilHng, to subdue. 

A Shattered A great deal has been said about the misfortune that 
befell L. C. Caldwell, Esq., when he had his false beard 
burned off while playing Santa Claus at a Christmas 
tree, and so far everybody has commiserated Mr. Cald- 
well. But the writer ventures to shed a tear with those 
little children who beheved that Mr. Caldwell, in his 
role of Kris Kringle, had come fresh from the North 
Pole, and that even the last hair of his billustrious beard 
was safe from mortal harm. What must have been the 
horror, not to say disappointment, of the youngsters 
when they saw Santa Claus jerk that flaming beard 
from his face and grimace in his exceeding pain ? That 
was enough to inject scepticism and distrust into the 
youth of the entire community. AU a-tumbling came 
the childish air castles. Fairies became frauds; Jack 
the Giant Killer no better than a tin soldier; the god- 
mother, a washerwoman. Here was unutterable trag- 
edy. Disillusionment usually comes gradually — as 
steady, irresistible blows at peace; but in that little 
room where Mr. Caldwell stood as the hving embodi- 
[124I 



CHILDREN 

ment of the Christmas spirit there was a psychological 
crash, and even the littlest children saw, by the light 
that flamed above the beard, that the doll with the eyes 
of gentian blue was but a bit of wax after all; that the 
proud httle wooden prince sprawled too clumsily at 
slight gesture, . . . saw, in a mental flash, that the 
night spirits that hover over tiny beds had wide, sor- 
rowful eyes, and, agonized, were about to flee from the 
ghastly fire that curled devihshly around a whited beard. 
Oh, Mr. Caldwell, what a lot you will have to answer 
for; and how blind you are in thinking that your sins 
and woes can be cured by the mere apphcation of cold 
cream ! 

The community was glad to know that the little chil- The 
dren in the Rescue Home are doing well. They are ^ot^^^^^^s 
such tiny little ones — all less than six years old. They 
belong to the class that must be fed as sparrows are fed, 
and it is good to know that they are housed and cared 
for in a motherly way. Maybe some of you remember 
a pitiful little tragedy that was enacted here two years 
ago. It was the story of a woman and her child — a girl- 
ish woman who looked out of wearied eyes and said she 
was not good enough to rear the baby. There was no 
denial. She had been broken at the wheel, and she said 
in a wail that she had forfeited her right to the man- 
child. Well, 'tis such children that the Rescue Home 
cares for — tender little children who might otherwise 
be as friendless and homeless as little — dogs. The 
great aching cry of the motherless. . . . the home an- 
swers that cry, and so is largely privileged and blessful. 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Making One of the biggest men in this county came into this 

^ H^appy P^^*^^ '^^^ ^^^^^ ^^^ ^^^^ ■ 

"I have thought it all out; and I know there is no 

happiness in the world save in giving happiness to other 
people." And he looked into space and thought and 
thought. The next day a rolHcking, careless youngster 
picked up little Ben, who drives the Thompson orphan- 
age donkey, and carried him into a drug store and gave 
him all the ice cream he could eat. There was a world 
full of sunshine ; the birds sang merrily together, and a 
tender little heart saw only beauty and bHss. Lord — 
the chance is everywhere — just everywhere. 
* * * 

'Tis an old plaint — this curse of longing for the 
freshness and the keen appetites of childhood. In one 
of the local drug stores the other day, a man whose 
pockets jingled money looked at a little raggedy boy 
who loitered at the door and watched wistfully the rev- 
ellers at the soda water counter. His eyes glowed in 
feverish animalism. There was a dry swallow in his 
throat and his mouth was parched. He wanted so 
much to eat and drink those heavenly things that he 
had to fight down a wail of bitterness. The man beck- 
oned to the boy and fed him to the full. The boy ate 
like a starved thing, yet gratefully and happily as a 
prince. He looked enviously at the man who turned 
his back on the banquet table and who would have 
given half his possessions to have tasted that moment 
of satisfied youth. Here is a small tale of life and 
living. The child dreams that he will find satisfaction 
complete on the day that he can eat what he likes and 
[126] 



CHILDREN 

do what he Hkes. When that day comes he is satiated, 
and he spends a good part of the rest of his Hfe trying 
to stimulate an appetite that left him when he ceased to 
go barefooted. Finally . . , "Mush is what I like 
best," said the late Henry Gratton Springs, who was 
far past the threescore years and had three-quarters of 
a million dollars. "I have tried it all, but mush — a 
plain, simple child's dish of mush is best of all." 

And Master John W. Stagg, Jr., will be missed, too. Master 
That child has the face of an angel and a heart for dev- •'° ° ^^ 
ilment that has endeared him to everybody in the town. 

"Sometimes I know what I have missed," said the A 
confirmed bachelor with a sigh. "I suppose there is sigh^°^^ 
only one thing in the world that is worth while. Years 
ago this friend of mine came to me. His face was 
flushed, his eyes gleamed, and he was trembling slightly. 
'Oh, my God,' he said in a sort of whisper. 'It is a 
boy, and they put him in my arms and '....' The 
mother?' I said. 'The mother,' he replied, 'the 
mother is all right. The — mother!' He was humbled, 
yet glorified ; and I felt that all the emotions I had ever 
known counted for naught. That — that is worth more 
than all the rest. This ache of wanting to be bothered 
by a baby. ..." 

Have you heard of the new book club that has been The New 

organized in this city ? It is called Fame, and it has 

only four members: Frances Osborne, Annie Dewey 

Chambers, Mary Osborne, and Estelle Hargrave. If 

[127] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The New you are half as clever as these little women you will 
Boo c ub j.ga^(jjiy sgg jjQ^ ^j^gy gQ^ ^j^g name for their club. Put 

in a line the first letter in each name. Ah, you see now, 
don't you? 

The members of this club are between the ages of ten 
and six years. Which is ten and which is six? You 
mustn't know, you know. 'Twould be against the dig- 
nity of the club to tell an indelicate thing like that. 

And, oh, the meetings and meetings they have! Not 
Maeterhnckl Not George Meredith! Not the Eye- 
talian poets ! Oh, no, of course not. But fairy tales — 
aye, the dreamy stories of the prince and the princess, 
the sprites in buttercups, the elfs in wonderland, the 
nymphs in the dells, the mermaids who sang by the 
side of the coral reef. 

Here's a book club ! Never a doubt, never a criticism, 
never a bit of cold analysis. Alas ! It is true — too true 
that the young nobleman was changed to a big black 
bear — true about that awful giant and the seven-league 
boots — true that the slipper and the prince returned to 
Cinderella. Red Riding Hood! How pathetic, . . . 
And fairy godmothers are always ready to come out of 
the next room and do — oh, just anything! 

Fame! So. They've all the fame that childhood 
wants — the precious misty fame that is near to the 
spirit world — the fame that the older world forgets, 
forgetting the only pleasure that is complete. 

Four Httle heads bending low; four little souls that 
know no evil; four little hearts beating in perfect faith 
and perfect happiness. Dear, simple, unknowing — 
Fame. 

[128] 



CHAPTER VII 



ANIMALS 



Every few months it becomes the duty of the chron- A Law- 
icier of the happenings in this city to devote a special goj-gg^ 
chapter to the sage doings of animals in the community. 
The last chapter dealt with the loneliness and philoso- 
phy of Capt. A. G. Brenzier's tailless Isle o' Man cat; 
and the history is cheerfully resumed with an account of 
the wisdom of Dr. R, L. Gibbon's horse. 

This horse was hitched to a buggy in front of the 
Private Hospital yesterday morning when he became 
frightened by the near approach of a bicycle and ran 
away. He came at a rapid gait till close to the square, 
and then he remembered the city ordinance which says 
that no horse, not even a runaway doctor's horse, shall 
travel across the square at a greater rate of speed than 
three miles an hour. So the remembering animal 
slowed up almost to a walk till he had crossed the hard 
brick pavement. The brief respite in his race caused 
his riotous blood to cool, and after he had crossed the 
square he ran no more. 

And the two horses that pull the Central Hotel 'bus Two 
also know a thing or two. The other night when they jjorZg"^ 
were at the Southern depot, Charley Lindsay, the por- 
9 [129] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

ter, not noticing that the driver was not in his box, rang 
the bell for the 'bus to start up-town. The horses un- 
derstood the signal, and, with no guidance whatever, 
came trotting up street, pulling the 'bus free from all 
collision, crossed at the proper place, came in front of 
the Central, stopped for a moment, and then gently 
backed the 'bus around to the curbing for the passen- 
gers to get out. 

"Judge " Dr. George Graham has a little water spaniel named 
Judge that is a rank hypocrite. In the daytime he stays 
at home and is a proper and respectable dog, but at 
night he is on the town and is the constant companion 
of the police. He has fooled his owner sadly, and Dr. 
Graham little guesses that his prize pup is a runabout. 
The dog understands the art of deception perfectly. 
Now, he and Pitts are comrades, and at any hour of the 
night he may be seen traipsing at the heels of that po- 
liceman, but when Pitts happened to go to Dr. Gra- 
ham's house the other morning, Judge met him at the 
gate and barked at him furiously. He simply wouldn't 
be pacified, and made as if he would hke to eat Pitts. 
But there was a roguish twinkle in his eye. That night 
he stole away from home, found Pitts at the police sta- 
tion, followed him till daylight, and then sneaked home 
through back streets. 



A Disserta- Of all the sporting gentlemen, the cat is the sporting- 
*'°Cats ^^^' Who so ready for the chase — who so vigilant and 
patient ? Even more so than an Esquimaux a cat is like 
[130] 



ANIMALS 

unto Izaak Walton. Perchance he sleeps a while on A Disserta- 
the hearth or climbs to the top of a high fence and lifts cats°" 
his voice in melody, but he ever has the same prepared- 
ness for the chase that his forebears had in the jungles 
thousands of years ago. Such a beautiful life he has! 
His chiefest ambition is to catch rats, which are forever 
giving him a delightful surprise party, or else they creep 
out of holes to reward his exceeding vigilance. Above 
all other living things the cat does more of what he likes 
to do. Man and the other animals are curbed, but a 
cat is a free lance from his earliest childhood. He can 
go and come when he pleases, and it is the mission of his 
life to find perfect pleasure in selfishness. But it is as a 
sportsman that he wins most renown. He counts more 
scalps than anybody; and with him the joy of the kill 
and the rapture of the feast are nicely blended. While 
he purrs -under the stroke of civilization he throws back 
to the old days, and panders to every primitive, barbaric 
impulse of his nature. He never laughs and he never 
smiles, never gives affection to anything or considers 
anything except his appetites, yet the world approves 
of him. He is the unfairest, sneakingest hunter and the 
crudest thing alive, but his methods do not provoke 
even a frown. He reeks in misdeeds, but is selected as 
the fit companion for the newly born as well as for the 
agedly virtuous. Such a gentleman a cat is, to be sure. 
He defies classification in his own kingdom, and is be- 
yond any comparison except as illustrating well-defined 
human characteristics. There is no moral to any story 
about a cat. Cats don't figure in Sunday-school story 
books or ecclesiastical homilies. 
[131] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

A Disserta- A cat is really a sphinx. No one ever knows what he 
*^°Cate ^^ thinking about or what to make of him except the 
witches, and they won't tell. Of course, certain moods 
are understood. In the heart of a family a cat lies, and 
sometimes purrs under the last touch of a dying hand; 
and you know somehow that he is either thinking about 
torturing a rat or imagining how bully it would be to slay 
a canary bird. In truth, a cat plays tricks with the hu- 
man mind. It is not easy to picture an ideal home with- 
out thinking of a cat which joins his purr with the lazy 
hum of the tea kettle; yet in the Dark Lands where 
nightmare is gendered there is a cat. Where the earth 
is damp and foul smell is; where one can barely see 
through a slimy forest and gaze upon a blood-red 
moon — there a cat is, a mangy, crawly cat with shiny 
eyes. His image is the dearest plaything of a baby and 
yet stalks wailingly and unctuously to the dead. One 
tries to analyze, and then must loathe a cat; and then 
stops and caressingly lays his hands on that inscrutable 
face. A glorious, free, unfathomable man a cat is. His 
song belongs to the after-world, and one knows it will 
be heard there as a thin treble in satanic chorus. Mean- 
time he is privileged to show the only reeking, flaunted 
evil that is conscienceless. What a fine contempt he 
must have for mankind — this unsuffering, remorseless 
cat whose creed makes him lower than nearly all hu- 
manity and bad as the devil himself. 
* * * 

Of course a man doesn't make such a scathing criti- 
cism of cats unless he has provocation. For a year or 
more the comment man has been writing pieces about 
[132] 



ANIMALS 

that big black cat up-stairs in the club, about the bell 
around his neck and how it cut off his pleasure and pre- 
vented him from associating with other cats. Well, he 
has gone and had four kittens — up there in the room 
where the nice old colored woman keeps the sheets and 
things. And it's a crying, mewing shame. 

Cats play a large part in the life of the community. A Spinster's 
Only last week The Observer related the woes of a lady ^^*^ 
who had twenty-seven pet fehnes and yet sorrowed for 
the death of one beloved, which had come to her death 
through a small boy and a rifle. All these twenty-seven 
cats are fat and docile and have no higher wish than to 
loaf around the house and be scratched on the head. 
So many cats is surely a thing to be proud of. The 
only criticism that can be made of these fehnes is that 
they are too lazy, not ambitious, too — er — effete. 

Mister Bob Jordan has spent several thousand dollars ^.^^^J^^** 
in putting gilt and ghttcr and mirrors and mahogany 
and things in his billustrious drug store, and not one 
cent in the adornment of Benjamin Tillman, his one- 
eyed cat. Yet Ben with a single optic, a plebeian face 
and a mussed up back is by far the most conspicuous 
figure in the store, though he is as much out of place in 
his surroundings as a bar-keep in the present municipal 
campaign. Ben suffers from "onwee." He remembers 
the brave pioneer days when he used to sit in Jordan's 
front door and engage in hand to hand combat with 
rats that came from the Central Hotel before the $150,- 
000 improvements had been added to that building. 

[133] 



Tillman " 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Now Ben, too old to change his home, must forever be 
studying his own homely physiognomy in multitudin- 
ous mirrors, must parade his old shaggy coat as the 
wretchedest garment at a wedding feast. Ben is like 
your poor country kin trying to be at ease in your best 
parlor. 

The Black A black cat that belongs to the Southern Manufac- 
the Club turers' Club, of this city, wears a jingling bell. He didn't 
ask for the bell, but they fastened it around his neck 
anyway. At first the bell frightened him nearly to death, 
and he had loud convulsions all times of the day and 
night. But he got used to the noise and now he rather 
likes it. He comes down here sometimes and sleeps 
over in the corner of the room for awhile. The first thing 
he does when he wakes up is to shake his bell, and then 
he purrs his pleasure at the sound. Truly, it may be 
said, he has music wherever he goes. 

But the bell has brought a great change in his life. 
He has a remarkably fine nose for a mouse, and before 
he wore the bell he was a diligent and accomplished 
sportsman. Now he travels- with so much orchestral 
accompaniment that he can't get within fifty feet of a 
rat. The sporting instinct is in him strong, but he is 
running his legs off in a vain chase. 

And that's not the worst of his condition. He is a 
good-looking cat, with a fine, rolhng eye, and before he 
was attuned to music he was a welcome and esteemed 
member of the best cat society in town. Now no other 
cat will have anything to do with him. Why, he hasn't 
had a confidential, heart-to-heart talk with another cat 
[134] 



ANIMALS 

in three months, and he is beginning to suffer terribly 
from loneHness. You see, he doesn't know what the 
estrangement is all about, and the other f eHnes are so 
afraid of that bell that they won't get close enough to 
tell him the trouble. The other night he climbed upon 
the fence in the back yard and deHvered a rousing ora- 
tion. He said he was at a loss to understand why his 
former comrades were showing him the marble heart. 
He had done nothing wrong that he knew of; he re- 
mained the same old sociable, friendly Tom that they 
used to know so well ; and why in the world did they re- 
fuse to give him the glad hand ? With that he bounced 
off the platform and went over to attend a catly tea 
across the way. But so soon as they heard the bell the 
other cats fled, and again he was left alone. He came 
back in here and sat down and was buried in thought 
for a long time ; but he seems to have no adequate rea- 
soning power. He hasn't even seen a rat in many 
weeks, and he realizes that his friends have placed him 
in Coventry; but he is still delighted with the bell, and 
doesn't connect it with his present isolated position. 
That cat is like a lot of people. Only they wear the 
bells quite knowingly. 

Fagan, the Jew, filled with terror and knowing that The 
he was to be hanged in a few minutes, became pro- -p^Q^lH^ 
foundly interested in the movements of a fly. And 
in moods of lesser consequence trifles have interested 
other men. At five o'clock yesterday afternoon a large 
red rooster came from somewhere to the square. There 
were not a great many people on the streets and very 
[135] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The little movement of any kind. From Woodall & Shep- 
Progress P^-^d's drug store to Fourth Street that rooster at once 
became the feature of interest. He did nothing to speak 
of — ^just strolled along and stopped to peck at the 
ground, and seemed perfectly at ease. At Burwell & 
Dunn's drug store men came out on the street and gazed 
upon the chicken; a small group of people gathered in 
front of Fitzsimons's drug store, the Western Union 
Telegraph Company, The Observer building, the club, 
and the Buford and Central Hotels, and stood motion- 
less. All eyes were upon the rooster. Men walked out 
on the veranda of the Manufacturers' Club and looked 
down upon the stroller. There was absolutely nothing 
about him to attract attention. Every now and then he 
lifted his head and kind of chuckled to himself, or 
peered at folks, but his equilibrium was never disturbed. 
There was a profound stillness. More men came to the 
club doors. Men hollered to men 'cross the street, but 
nobody seemed to know anything about the rooster. At 
all points the crowds grew larger. As far down as the 
court-house men stood still and looked up the street. 
A wagon trotting along a distant block made a faint but 
clear rumble. People came to up-stairs windows and 
looked silently at the rooster. Now several hundred 
people were to be numbered among the spectators. 
Judge F. I. Osborne stopped at the square and looked 
down the street upon the departing fowl. The rooster 
stopped in front of the Buford Hotel and looked Col. 
Henry Clay Eccles full in the face. Not a word was 
said; not a greeting was exchanged. There was a 
deathly stillness. The tension was now strong. Little 
[136] 



ANIMALS 

children were becoming attracted to the scene. Old 
men and old women stopped and looked. Leisurely the 
rooster paused when he came to Fourth Street. Slowly 
and deliberately he turned 'round and glared upon all 
the countless eyes. Then carelessly, without hesitation, 
and just as if his mind had been made up from the first, 
he walked thoughtfully down Fourth Street. And once 
more the town yawned and lapsed into utter boredom. 
This was the livest news item of the day. 

Jack, the celebrated bull dog belonging to Mr. Os- "Jack" 
mond L. Barringer, was shot and killed at two o'clock 
yesterday morning by Mr. George Fitzsimons. Mr. 
Fitzsimons says he killed the dog to save the life of Shep, 
his Scotch collie, who has the complexion of Bob, Son 
of Battle, but whose chief aim in life is to play with the 
little Fitzsimons children. 

Jack met his death merely because he followed the 
instincts of a bull dog. With people he was gentle and 
affectionate; but he beheved it was his mission in life 
to slay other dogs and cats, and he fought on sight — 
fought without any preHminary growling or quarreling. 
He was as lithe as a panther, and when he met another 
dog his body went out like a catapult, and he never 
rested until his teeth were on the enemy's throat and 
his own eyes were closed for the kill. Jack knew no 
half-way measures. He wanted to murder. 

Shep Hves close to Jack's home — the Barringer home 

— on North Tryon Street, and he seemed to tantalize 

Jack. Shep is a beautiful dog, with a fine, benevolent 

eye, and night after night he used to tempt Jack by lying 

[137] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

"Jack" out under the electric light, plain to see, yet safe in a 
public place. 

There is reason to believe that Jack determined long 
ago to slay Shep. Mr. Fitzsimons dreaded an encoun- 
ter and he told Mr. Barringer that if the bull dog came 
to his place and made an attack he would shoot him. 
Mr. Barringer offered no objection to this proposition, 
though he and Mr. Fitzsimons agreed that if the collie 
should go to the Barringer premises and be killed there, 
there would be no cause for hard feeling. Both men 
knew — as everybody else knew — that if the two dogs 
had an uninterrupted meeting the death of Shep would 
result. 

Between the two dogs there was peace, however, un- 
til Mr. Barringer left town and went to Baltimore. 
There was nobody on the premises to restrain Jack's 
movements, and he celebrated his first night of freedom 
by attacking Shep in front of the Fitzsimons home. 
The struggles of the collie aroused Mr. Fitzsimons, who 
ran to the scene. Jack had not yet warmed up to the 
fight, and he loosed his hold and fled when Mr. Fitzsi- 
mons appeared. 

The attack on the collie yesterday morning was as 
well planned as if it had been the conception of the hu- 
man brain. The Barringer home was practically de- 
serted, and Jack and a younger bull dog belonging to 
Mr. Barringer had the free run of the grounds. Stand- 
ing in the shadow of their yard they could easily keep 
account of the movements of the collie in the yard 
across the way. 

Up to midnight Shep was seen in front of the Fitzsi- 
[138I 



ANIMALS 

mons house. Some time after midnight he went around "Jack" 
the house and into the back yard. The two bull dogs 
crept across the deserted street, through the Fitz- 
simons yard, past the house, and went down on their 
game. 

Apparently Shep didn't have one chance in a thou- 
sand of escaping death. After the first rough-and-tum- 
ble the bull dogs fastened hard with their teeth — the 
younger dog on the loins. Jack at the throat. The muf- 
fled screams of their pet collie aroused the Fitzsimons 
children, who raised a wail in harmony. Without paus- 
ing to dress. Dr. Joseph Graham and Mr. Fitzsimons 
rushed out into the yard to the rescue. The younger 
bull dog saw the men and fled. But the game was now 
too sweet for Jack to abandon. His hind feet were tug- 
ging at the ground strenuously and he was shaking the 
big collie like a reed in the wind. Shep was still nimble 
on his feet, and in his sharp struggles to escape he and 
the bull dog whirled in circles. 

The fact that the dogs moved almost as one body pre- 
vented the men from shooting for a minute or so. They 
feared they might strike the collie. Dr. Graham opened 
the attack and missed. The first two or three shots 
went wild, and then Mr. Fitzsimons picked his chance 
and shot the bull dog through the lungs. Instantly a 
great red splash appeared on the clean white side of the 
dog, but he only tightened his hold on his victim. Mr. 
Fitzsimons stepped nearer still and fired, striking Jack 
just behind the left foreleg. 'Twas a mortal wound. 
Yet the bull dog only lunged harder for the collie, and 
his teeth did not relax until he was overcome by weak- 
[139] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

"Jack" ness. Slowly, gradually, almost with a sigh, he turned 
the collie loose — stepped back and looked at Mr. Fitz- 
simons. 

"At that moment," said Mr. Fitzsimons, "he com- 
pelled my utmost admiration. I started to shoot again, 
but I couldn't shoot, somehow. He did not cower or 
seem at all afraid. He looked me in the face for a mo- 
ment, and then he walked away — straight out in front 
of the Lutheran church, where he fell on the sidewalk. 
Then, to relieve his suffering, I walked to him and shot 
him through the head. He was the gamest bull dog I 
ever saw, and a bull dog, you know, is the gamest thing 
in the world." 

The news of Jack's death will come as a great blow 
to Mr. Barringer, who is with the Elks in Baltimore. 
His love for the dog was passing strong. He had 
owned the little fellow since he was a tiny pup, and 
there was a strange sort of comradeship between the 
two — the man and the dog. More than almost any 
other dog that the town knew. Jack was like folks. 
He was a gentleman all the way through, and his po- 
liteness to people made him notable. He bothered 
nothing in the world but dogs — and cats. 
* * * 

In the canine annals of crime Jack has no peer. Even 
Mr. Barringer has ceased to try to count the number of 
fights Jack had, but Mr. Barringer knows that Jack has 
killed in twenty-nine fights and has never been van- 
quished in any combat. 

The presence of Jack alone would have made the 
Barringer premises famous in a way. If a dog, no mat- 
[140] 



ANIMALS 

ter what kind of a dog, went in there he died nine times "Jack" 
out of ten, and if he escaped death 'twas merely because 
some person happened to be close by to pry open the 
teeth of the bull dog. No dog, however large, stood any 
chance with Jack. With the biggest dog he had a 
method of wriggling in under his adversary's body and 
making that fatal coup at the throat. Many residents of 
North Tryon Street still remember the time that Jack 
went out and introduced himself to the big St. Bernard 
dog that weighed about one hundred and sixty pounds, 
was fashioned like a young calf, and belonged to Mr. 
John Oates. Jack weighed twenty-five pounds, or 
something like that, and he was trying to kill the St. 
Bernard by sections, when the big dog opened his 
mouth and cried so loudly that he could have been 
heard a mile. He didn't try to fight. He struck his col- 
ors at once, and begged for somebody to come and take 
him away from the Terrible Thing. And it required 
the efforts of an entire family to save the Bernard's 
life. 

Away from home. Jack fought only on suggestion or 
because he was ordered to fight. Once he fought in a 
public place, in Jordan's drug store, and when the other 
dog had come to breathe like a very sick kitten they 
poured ammonia on Jack's face, destroying the sight of 
one of his eyes. Afterward, when a veterinary surgeon 
took Jack in the rear of The Observer building and cut 
out the injured eye, the dog lay perfectly still and never 
whimpered, though he must have suffered intense 
pain. 

Jack was better known than any dog in Mecklenburg 
[141] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

"Jack" county, or, maybe, any dog in North Carolina. He 
slew ruthlessly, and his death, as it came, seemed in- 
evitable. If he were a man it might be said that he per- 
ished by the sword. 

Or, better still, Jack died with his boots on. 



[143] 



CHAPTER VIII 

CHRISTMAS 

Christmas is almost here — Christmas, the saddest, Christmas 
sweetest time of the year. It is a period for entertain- °°"°S 
ment and family reunion, and a time when one remem- 
bers how old one is, how worthless, and how little he has 
really accomplished. Heaven here belongs to the ten- 
der world that doesn't know the truth about Santa Claus, 
and beyond that world happiness is feverish and fitful. 
To the young, Christmas is a million miles away, but as 
one grows older time's circle moves more rapidly, and 
finally Christmas follows Christmas too hurriedly. The 
old people say that only the world is old; that man is 
ever young; and the mere space of Yesterday is between 
the young heart that yearned for the filled stocking and 
the old, feeble heart that may never throb another 
Christmas day. 

Christmas again — and Santa Claus. You give and Santa-Claus 
receive, and congratulate, yet for all your felicitation 
there are moments when the season is sad to you, even 
while it is sweetest. It is a time when you review not 
only a year and long for lost opportunites for improve- 
ment, but your vision goes further and you watch the 
workings of a child's mind as it turned from utter faith 
[i43l 



IDLE COMMENTS 

to disillusionment. First some one told you who Santa 
Claus was. You were glad to know then, and proud. 
But you're not glad now when you come to think of it. 
Unfaith started then. In a mental flash you trace the 
journey of that child, and you find that there was too 
much telling, too many people who were ready to break 
down ideals ; and you find that you, too, have helped to 
destroy the faith of other people. Along the perilous 
path you have seen the child come to the vital present; 
not unscarred and with knowledge that is merciless. 
You and only you know what the child did along the 
way — only you and God know the blunders, the sins, 
the selfishness. You see all this because you cannot 
help seeing it ; because at this beautiful season you real- 
ize that perfect happiness is given only to little children ; 
and that after childhood must come the fight, the temp- 
tation, the fall, the great sorrow. . . . After the thought 
charity must come. The best spirit of Christmas is 
Charity — Charity rising out of remembrance of the 
long, bitter road that the little child trod. 

A Christmas "A merry Christmas and a happy New Year!" 
Chariotte These be immortal words. They suggest happy 
firesides and blazing logs ; the joy of little children ; the 
repeated handshake ; the ready offering of charity ; the 
deepening of love; and a sweeter showing of spiritual 
life. 

As the words are written, the voice of the cow bell and 

the tin horn and the explosion of the torpedo are heard 

out on the streets. 'Tis the night before Christmas. 

One can shut his eyes and see the long rows of houses 

[ 144 ] 



CHRISTMAS 

covered with snow; can almost feel the quietude. There A Christmas 
is the gathering of families — the oft-told reminiscences. chLlotte 
Some one reads a Christmas story. The youngest child 
goes to sleep on the lounge. Such things form part of 
the universal idea of what Christmas eve should be. 

But the noise of the cow bell grows louder and louder 
outside. 

A perfect bedlam! It was so all day. Not hundreds 
but thousands of people thronged the shops; and the 
streets were crowded with shoppers who lopped over 
and sometimes blocked traffic in the widest thorough- 
fares. 

The increased shopping was only an emphasized 
feature of the week. There was more shopping — 
much more shopping. Before this the paper has called 
attention to the vast amount of Christmas money that 
was being spent here. But yesterday, records were 
broken. Seemingly, all merchants were selling out every- 
thing they had. In the stores there seemed to be a 
veritable stampede, and there might have been a stam- 
pede had it not been for the wonderful amount of good 
nature that was shown everywhere. 

Everything was bought and sold in large quantities. 
One furniture establishment had three hundred orders 
for delivery in the forenoon. Hardware stores came 
under the shower of holiday gold. And the Christmas 
stores proper — the places where the conventional holi- 
day gifts are to be had — were strained to the utmost 
capacity just in selling the articles that the merry crowd 
wished to purchase in a hurry. 

The year has been unprecedented in its financial suc- 
lo [ 145 ] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

A Christmas cess. Everybody seemed to have plenty of money. 
ChariotS Certainly everybody made a pretty pretense of spend- 
ing plenty of money. Wealth was scattered reck- 
lessly. The spectator, keeping tab on some part of the 
multitude, swore that the shoppers gave far less than 
usual thought to purchases. Money came readily out 
of pocket, and flowed quickly in the general effort to 
satisfy the municipal Santa Claus. The evidence of 
prosperity was the keynote of the day. Charlotte had 
relaxed and was showing itself and the world that it was 
rejoicing in the commercial blessing. 

This suggests the inner condition — the general bias. 
Everybody seemed glad to see everybody else. Laugh- 
ter was heard every five feet. Old friends were returning 
and receiving warm welcomes. The faces of little chil- 
dren were radiant with happiness. The spirit of Christ- 
mas was perfect in a heartfelt way. 
* * * 

The purely physical aspect of Christmas eve was be- 
wildering. The noise beggared description. The little 
boy touches off a firecracker, and fires a cannon, or 
yells at the top of his voice. That is the ideal concomi- 
tant of Christmas. But it is marvellous when all the 
sound that can be made by ten thousand or more peo- 
ple moving in a small area is drowned by the sound of a 
cow bell. But that is what happened. It is not known 
how the cow bell mania started here ; but there is a tra- 
dition to the effect that once, when the police shut off 
all noise, Armistead Burwell, Jr., who was quite a lad 
bought a cow bell and gave vent to his surcharged fef 
ings by trailing it half a block. That was sufficient to 
[146] 



CHRISTMAS 

create the disease — started the epidemic, just as Buffalo A Christmas 
Bill's show blanketed the town with measles. Charlotte 

The only extra business stand that was erected dur- 
ing the holiday season was for the purpose of retailing 
cow bells. Their use is odd. They are not held aloft 
and waved as a token of jubilation, but are dragged in 
a bumpety-bump sort of manner along the pavement 
carelessly or apathetically, and yet the effect is such 
that the composite sound that goes to the heavens from 
Charlotte is that of a cow bell trying to blend harmo- 
nies with a tin horn. 

Youth and age meet here on the dead level with a 
cow bell. Col. R. O. Colt cracked his heels together at 
the square, whooped in the fulness of his joy, and jan- 
gled his cow bell. Little Lacy Seawell did likewise. 
A colored girl with a green hat and a pink waist sniffed 
the air because her cow bell was as good as anybody's. 
The society women and the factory girl found democ- 
racy in the bell. 

The noise was devilish and incessant. 

Jubilation was unchecked, and the police merely con- 
fined themselves to a diligent effort to keep the street as 
passable as possible. From eight till eleven o'clock 
last night nearly every foot of space at the square was 
covered by surging humanity that held noise-making 
as a common object. Confetti was dashed into the face 
of anybody. There must have been people at home; 
but the local world seemed to be on the streets. Never 
was such a Christmas in Charlotte. 

The day was without sensational incident. In all 
the melde no one was seriously hurt. Beyond the arrest- 
[147] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

ing of those who drank too deeply, the police had very 
little to do. Out of a hurrying crowd on East Trade 
Street came a burly negro who fought hard against sev- 
eral officers. The crowd held its breath momentarily. 
Then an officer swung his club hard into action, and 
there was the splutter of blood — the end of the strug- 
gle. The offender joined others of his kind at the sta- 
tion, where stentorian voice or heavy, soggy snores tell 
the tale of ineffectual pleasure. 

But the day, taken altogether, stood for success. The 
beginning and end of it showed a wonderful degree of 
prosperity; or to quote Mr. L. W. Sanders, "It was the 
best Christmas Charlotte ever had." 

To-day the note of the cow bell will be resumed as 
the only pronounced sign of celebration. In keeping 
with the real spirit of the hour there will be much hos- 
pitality here — ^many family dinners and reunions. And, 
of course, there will be the usual service in all the 
churches, with unusually good music everywhere. 

Such is the general outline of Christmas in Charlotte. 
No one feature rises up for special notice except the 
happiness that is the result of money-making and 
money-spending. As a token of the times the cow bell 
has the right of way. If there is peace in you, and you, 
the cow bell and the tin horn may not speak it, and it may 
not come, individually, as a part of the flush of money. 
Here are the mystery and the wonder. But 

"A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." 

Reflections One wonders what Christmas means to the other fel- 
low. To children it is Paradise transplanted, but men 
[148] 



CHRISTMAS 

and women view it differently. To some it is a time for Reflections 
love and charity; to others a time for envy and discon- 
tent. To some it brings the j,ubilation that came finally 
to old Scrooge ; to others it brings boredom. 

* * * 

To a composite element of mankind Christmas is a 
long space reheved from tediousness by a family dinner 
that provides two helpings of rice and gravy, not mince 
pie and sleepiness. Your oldest relative once more tells 
the story of your most youthful folly, and afterward you 
go into the parlor and pick away at the nuts and raisins 
and things that rest in a bowl and decorate the centre 
table. The youngest child in the house brings you a 
fresh, smelly story book, to read upside down; every- 
body resists an inclination to stand up in front of the 
grate and stretch; and somebody goes over to the piano 
and plays "The Blue Bells of Scotland" with the right 
forefinger. A man from a distance has sent the daugh- 
ter of the house some American Beauty roses, and she 
busies herself by carrying these from room to room, 
humming as she walks. Out in the hall you hear chil- 
dren from over the way bragging to your children about 
the superiority of the gifts that were in their stockings. 
When you go to bed that night you feel as if you had 
spent the day at a circus where they didn't have any 
clowns; and, moreover, your sheets feel chilly and 
dampish. Sheets always feel like that on Christmas 
night, somehow or other. 

* * * 

Christmas is like any other gala day or a big recep- 
tion. To find pleasure you must have it inside your- 
[ 149 ] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Reflections self. This statement might seem unnecessary if it were 
not for the fact that in the matter of happiness the vast 
majority of people are utterly without personal resource. 
They must have happiness throvs^n at them, or absorb 
bits of it here and there; and when they are forced to 
subsist only on the lights and thoughts that God has 
given them they very properly perish with ennui. The 
empty fool in search of amusement touches you at every 
comer. 

* * * 

You see, there is such a hue and cry over Christmas, 
and when the day comes it may easily bring unsweet- 
ness — that let-down feeling of disappointment. No 
one is allowed to approach Christmas soberly or dis- 
passionately. A few weeks beforehand life may be in 
placid waters, but as the time of celebration draws nigh 
the stream becomes a swift current and then a vortex 
that whirls to and fro the universal multitude clutching 
holiday gifts. When the storm ceases, if you are a 
woman and are satisfied with what you've got you are 
a miracle; if you are a man and can pay for what you 
have given you are a blessed exception. This is Christ- 
mas with the varnish off — Christmas described in re- 
membrance of home- knit socks that didn't fit; inevita- 
ble indigestion; wet fingers that plastered pink candy; 
useful donations that weren't useful; and the same old 
snowbird on the same old white card. 

* * * 

All this is intended as a bare touch of realism — a 
kindly, though maybe a pessimistic, silhouette. The 
setting may be tiresome, but it will be gorgeous if you 
[150] 



CHRISTMAS 

have that happy heart. The man who wants the day to Reflections 
give him something will find it a failure. It is a success 
when the individual assumes that it is his duty to bring 
to the day love, charity, sympathy, peace. 
* * * 

And, while absorbing the cardinal virtues, he should 
charge himself with the obligation of bringing to Christ- 
mas one other quality. That is understanding — a thing 
that sermonizing takes into too little account. Your 
enemies are very often a tribute to your strength of char- 
acter, and malice may be fought in the open. Richard 
Harding Davis has one of his characters to say that it 
is the well-meaning fools who cause most trouble ; and 
there are other varied characterizations of kinds of folk 
who constitute the most disagreeable citizenship. But 
the people who do not understand, wilfully do not un- 
derstand, do the greatest evil. It is a common privilege 
to speculate as to the punishment the other man will re- 
ceive in the hereafter, and it is respectfully maintained 
here that a particularly warm hell belongs by right to 
those persons who go around declaring motives where 
there aren't motives, and make a Hfetime business of 
trying to break hearts by misunderstanding. Every one 
who takes himself seriously and conscientiously would 
like to shield his life and his work from this class, which 
are Hke half-fed vampires brooding pleasurably over 
suffering and toil. These be the people who enter your 
house through the front door and are given the seat of 
honor at. your table, and right knowingly they take the 
things you say and the things you do and, in distortion, 
flaunt you and covertly taunt you to your hurt. The 
[151] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Reflections greatest tragedy is not death, but a miserable life, and 
misunderstanding causes more misery than anything 
else in the world. 

* * * 

To try to understand the other man — this, also, should 
be a very sacred and tender duty. Apart from religion, 
fairness is the one thing that makes life bearable; and 
understanding is fairness. 

* * * 

"God bless us all," said Tiny Tim, and the saying 
beautifies a universe at tL^s season. Maybe God will 
not see fit to bless all of us, and therefore puny man's 
duty to his fellow man is larger and better. 



[152] 



CHAPTER IX 



SOUTHERN LIFE AND MANNERS 



''But one of the finest speeches I ever heard in my Tribute to 
life," the Old Man continued, "was dehvered by 'Gen- North^State 
tleman' George Pendleton — Senator George H. Pen- 
dleton, of Ohio. He spoke in Charlotte on a 20th of 
May about 1878, 1 think; and it was in the address that 
he paid this memorable tribute to North Carolina: 

'"Without great cities or uncultivated wastes, with- 
out an excess of riches or degrading poverty, she has 
provided a University for the education of her sons, 
and has always known how to tread that middle ground 
of dignity and of honor and of self-respect without 
which no State is permanently built.' " 

' The educational conference is about the biggest thing Illiteracy 
that has come this way in a long time, and it will result 
in putting a good many dollars into the schools of this 
county. After hearing the statement of Dr. Wallace 
Buttrick, of the general educational board of New York 
City, it would be difficult to raise any objection to the 
gift. He said, in effect, that the best man is down here 
and promised more in development than any other, and 
he begged to be allowed to help, just as a brother. The 
[153] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

privilege was granted, and Mecklenburg County began 
a new chapter in history. 

The episode was sad, somehow. It is no little thing 
to proclaim to the world the iUiteracy of this State; to 
discuss and berate unfortunates who cannot talk back. 
The realization of wretchedness was too vivid. The 
portrayal of it reminded one of a father who needs must 
whip his son in public. 

It all seemed necessary — but, oh, the shame of open 
s-hame ! To be sensitive, proud, reticent, and then to be 
held up for universal pity! 'Tis the rough cut of a sur- 
geon's knife. 

Wasted? Mr. Walter H. Page said there had been enough 
brains and character wasted in North CaroHna in the 
last one hundred years to have managed the civilized 
globe. Wasted ! Yes, the people have Hved simply and 
raised big-hearted children. Countrymen have kept 
open house and independence, and have envied no 
man. And there be, in Httle towns in this State, men 
who wear long coats and slouch hats. They have the 
accent of an Enghsh lord, the manners of a courtier, the 
straight strain of high Saxon breed. They be gentle, 
brave men, who might have ruled a world and are con- 
tent to govern a family. And for twice a hundred years, 
if one has been sick in a hovel in the North State, women 
have come and tended and blessed. Wasted? Not 
quite that. Development will come surely and every- 
body will be educated; and North CaroHnians, "na- 
tionalized," will go out to conquer by bigness. Mean- 
time, thank God for the waste. 
[154] 



SOUTHERN LIFE AND MANNERS 

'Tis an old question, revived by a letter that wondered The 
why anybody could be content to stay in Charlotte or "^^ ® ® 
smaller places when New York, Boston and other larger 
cities offer so much more broadening influences and so 
much greater facilities for ambition. The letter came 
from a man who has lived in New York, only a year or 
so and talks gHbly about the various streets, Weber & 
Fields', and a few well-known cafes. Men who 
know New York thoroughly and are known in that city 
do not usually advise other people to go there to live. 
The metropoHtan enthusiast is the new resident, who 
will never know one-tenth as many people as he knew 
in his native village. He becomes dazed by the glare • 
and glitter, the big sounds and the mad tumult, and calls 
all this a part of seeing and learning and living and 
broadening. 

* * * 

But is the city life more broadening than the life down 
here ? Does it give a man a more comprehensive view 
of life? This question does not consider the genuine 
cosmopolitan type — the man of the world who may live 
in New York or anywhere, and who is broad because he 
has found how utterly small he is and simple because 
he has learned that any manner other than simplicity is 
absurd. But does the man who leaves this section of 
country, for instance, and goes to New York to live — 
does he enter a broader or a narrower life ? Has he a 
right to pity those that are left behind ? 

* * * 

What does the city give the rank outsider? What 
profit does New York offer the man from our midst 
[155] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The who goes there to live ? He is swallowed up, lost from 
Simple Life ^-^^ immediately, for — saving a brilliant few — who 
ever heard of a man who lived in New York ? He is a 
tiny thing who rubs elbows with strangers. He sees 
millions of people every day, and is lucky if he gets an 
opportunity to study and know half a dozen. He has 
no neighbors. In the quick rush there is scant time for 
sympathy, and his eyes, seeing no further than camera 
lens, can take no intimate account of the undercurrent 
— the pulsing human nature that is about. He is on the 
outside of everything — a little, worrying atom that must 
fight fiercely for space. He may make a lot of money 
and spend it extravagantly, but who cares or who no- 
tices ? He may do a very fine thing, but the man who 
lives next door to him will never hear of it. The note of 
his suffering or his happiness is not heard above the 
ceaseless din, and his death will be no more than the 
passing of a dray horse. He may successfully pander 
to fastidious appetites, but does he learn anything that 
is worth while or do anything that is endurable ? He 
is hurried in a rut, goaded too fast for reflection, keyed 
up to a point where he confuses personal values. He is 
a drop of oil in a mammoth machine, or — to change the 
figure — he reminds one of a bit of scurrying chaff in a 
maelstrom. Aye, who ever heard of a man in a city? 
And you, and you, know that the narrowest man 
who walks these streets is not the denizen of Paw 
Creek, but the man who has left Paw Creek and 
smirks complacently when he returns, after having 
served prenticeship as galley slave to metropolitan 
drudgery. 

[156] 



SOUTHERN LIFE AND MANNERS 

The man who is pitied — how does he fare ? He stays The 
down here and Hves what the world terms a small life, ^^™P^^ ■^"^ 
but is his living as narrowed as the city man thinks? 
His amusements are limited; he is apt to do the same 
things day after day, and he is not apt to make a great 
deal of money, but he learns to know a great many peo- 
ple, and to love and be loved by a few. He gets close to 
a scattered multitude that finds time to be quiet occa- 
sionally, and he sees people, not as they seem to be, but 
as they are. If he is happy there are those who will re- 
joice with him. If he suffers, men reach out their hands 
and touch him understandingly. Be he ever so small a 
figure, his movements are not unheeded; and his vir-' 
tues, as well as his sins, are a matter of public knowl- 
edge. If he does anything that is good and praiseworthy 
his community knows it and applauds, and he climbs 
not very high on the ladder of fame before his State sees 
him and nods approval. Old men and old women stop 
him and bless him in memory of his father and mother; 
he knows a countless number of babies ; and his neigh- 
bors' dogs come out and recognize him as a beloved 
friend. The joy of his acquaintances is so near to him, 
so undisguised, that he is gladdened with its radiance, 
and his eyes are wet in thought of their sorrows. He 
has time for reflection, and he learns to know his fellow 
man — know his strength and his weaknesses; learns to 
commend the one and condone the other. On week 
days he speaks to hundreds of people who call him by 
his first name; on Sundays he worships with a congre- 
gation that has known him since he was a babe in arms. 
When he grows old he is not in the way, and when he 
[157] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The dies men bring sympathy to his children and declare a 
Simple Life common loss. Maybe he, too, has lived in a rut, but 
he has lived with his heart-side throbbing; he has been 
an integral part of the life that was builded around him; 
and the best of him is proclaimed while he lives and 
lives after he dies. 

* * * 

Both types are exaggerated, but which of the two 
really lives the broader life ? 

* * * 

And the delocalized Southern woman is a pitiable, 
abortive creature. Mrs. Pembroke Jones, from this 
State, and some other women from Baltimore, Rich- 
mond, and New Orleans, are occasionally heard of in 
the metropolis, but nine times out of ten the Southern 
woman in New York has much less social pleasure than 
she found at home, and she has no tale of triumph to 
carry back to the South. She gains, however, if she ab- 
sorbs the best of life about her without losing her own in- 
dividuality. But she is lost if she becomes an imitative 
onlooker. Too often she does this. This type you also 
know and you don't like it — as a type. It is tailor-made, 
spick-and-span, and conscious to a wonderful degree. 
It wears three dresses a day down here and talks New 
York incessantly — tells you about the life there with the 
same gusto that one would exhibit in describing the 
habits of a newly discovered tribe in the South Sea Isl- 
ands. "We do this in New York," or "We do that in 
New York" — we, the lessees or proprietors. You know 
the patronizing language. And then the change in the 
manner and in the voice — that is simply horrible. The 
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SOUTHERN LIFE AND MANNERS 

best voice that the Lord ever put into a woman's head is The 

the soft Southern accent — the velvety voice, as Miss ""^^ ® 

Mary Johnston terms it. And this is sacrificed by a de- 

locahzed feminine product that hasn't even intelhgence 

enough to know that it has cast away its best possession. 

"She has been to the Big Place and she has come home 

to see her folks," and doesn't she usually worry you to 

death ? In all these fine clothes you see unnaturalness. 

The Southern woman is gone, and in her stead you see 

a person who wraps her clothes around her to show 

curves, prates unmusical, borrowed speech, and looks 

above the people who, being merely natural, could 

reach a social status that she, an anomaly, can now ' 

never hope to attain here, there, or anywhere. 

All this is a tribute to the folk who have seen, but not 
enough; who have travelled, but too little — a tribute to 
fledgelings who return with a strange, harsh crow. 
* * * 

Oh, these people who come down here and talk about 
the big people they know somewhere else! Why? 
Why ? You meet a decent sort of chap, and just when 
you are beginning to like him he clears his throat and 
says, "That reminds me of something Senator Blank 
said to me once." And you want to take a club and 
kill him. When a man goes to a strange place he com- 
mits a fatal mistake by pretending to know anybody 
worth while who lives elsewhere. He may be telling 
the truth in his boast, but nobody believes him. This 
particular kind of an ass is getting to be so common 
around here. He makes one weary, sick. A stranger 
has no business with either people or mighty friends. He 
[159] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The is sized up like any other animal, and if he is consid- 
Sunple Life ^^^^ ^ thoroughbred it will not be because he named his 
sire. Mankind has a varied creed, but all men, from 
the beginning of time, have had a quiet contempt for 
any man who bragged about birth or discussed his 
nearness to the Distinguished. 

* * * 

You know the class. They return overly dressed and 
they don't know what to do with themselves. They 
work hard to kill time in the village ; they yawn a good 
deal; they bore others and are bored. At one time they 
went barefooted in the town or walked behind a mule 
in a furrow, but they can't understand now why every 
resident doesn't sell out bag and baggage and move to 
New York. They derive their only pleasure while here 
from meeting some other person who can talk New York 
with them, and, for the edification of the rural popula- 
tion, they eagerly exchange inane reminiscences of 
Weber & Fields, or of some restaurant where one can 
get a tip-top supper after the theatre. They have gone 
from this place and have been jammed into some little 
niche in the metropolis, and they wander back, conscious 
of a superiority that impresses no one else. In the big 
city they spend most of their Hfe in offices, and in leisure 
moments they move among vast hordes of strange peo- 
ple. They call this living and learning; and they go 
back to their birthplaces to pity — but, above all, to be 
pitied. 

* * * 

Northern men have voluntarily come here to live and 
have lived here contentedly without making unfair 
[i6o] 



SOUTHERN LIFE AND MANNERS 

comparisons. They have been glad to get the freer life The 
that allows time for reflection and for the cultivation o ^ ® ^ ® 
one's fellow man. And on the other hand, the best men 
in the city are the big-lunged active fellows from the 
country — men who absorb ideas with wide-open eyes 
and without being deceived. But the most patent type 
of ass that one meets down here is the country boy who 
has moved into the hurly-burly, and, fascinated and be- 
wildered by the din about his ears, loses the proper 
reckoning of the bigger social values. In other words, 
a native New Yorker or a Boston man is not apt to bore 
anybody, and, moreover, he is apt to be at home every- 
where; but half of the Southern boys who have barely 
tasted New York and return home for the holidays 
ought to be slain for sheer idiocy and conceit. 
* * * 

"The natives who go abroad, spend three months 
travelling in Europe, and then return to tell you about 
the well-dressed women in Paris, the height of the tower 
in London, che pigeons in Venice, or of the nobility in 
Rome, are of great educational benefit to the provincial 
State," remarked the observant man. "One may have 
read much about the interesting sights on the Continent, 
but it is very gratifying to run across a friend who has 
seen the things with his own eyes. 

I have noticed in recent times that foreign travel 
doesn't seem to make as much impresssion upon North 
Carolinians as it did in former years. A quarter of a 
century ago you could count upon the fingers of one 
hand the natives who had crossed the Atlantic. These 
were mighty men after they returned, and were the cen- 
[i6i] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

tral figures wherever they went. 'Why, he's been to 
Europe!' would be the awe-stricken whisper; and then 
everybody would hang on the words of the fortunate 
traveller. Folks knew London through Dickens, and 
Egypt by the geographies, and personal testimony of 
the existence of both places was a passport into any and 
all grades of society. 

And foreign travel affected North Carolinians more 
in the old days than it does now. Why, there was a 
Mecklenburg man who spent three weeks in Paris, and 
when he came home he couldn't call an apple by any- 
thing but a French name. Another county man who 
stayed a year in Germany returned speaking broken 
English. He would say: 'Big gates! Pass me — oh, 
donder and blitzen, what shall I say? Oh, I remem- 
ber; pass me dot — what you call heem? — dot bread?' 
And that fellow had walked behind a mule in this coun- 
ty and in Cabarrus until he was over twenty years old. 
He was wonderfully proficient with his German, how- 
ever, and could spot out line after line, from his Ollen- 
dorf, about the red dog and the blue cat. 

The Old There is one type that the writer rejoices to have seen 
Lady before he dies. 'Tis the old Southern lady. In her one 
sees the elegance and composure of a princess. Viewed 
surface-wise, she is as a rare cameo — Uke fragile porce- 
lain in her fineness. In her yet live sympathy and un- 
derstanding ; and she will not let romance die, nor faith, 
nor the fair ideaHzation of love. You would like to 
bend and kiss her hand — you know not why. You m.ay 
seek her as the best companion of youth; the most tact- 
[162] 



SOUTHERN LIFE AND MANNERS 

f ul comforter ; the tenderest philosopher. Her liking is 
a blessing; her love, a mantle that would shield from all 
hurt. She exacts little and would give so much; offer- 
ing the clean, unselfish strength of completed woman- 
hood to bring the peace that looks out of her own eyes. 
She is the most wondrous, yet the most natural and 
most graceful, picture in the South. You have seen 
her — this old lady ? She is very human as she sits there 
and gazes out at the dying sun. And yet there is about 
her a hush, a quietude that seems over and above the 
things of earth and nearest to Heaven itself. 

Mrs. Patterson ventured to say that North CaroHna The 
men have the best manners in the world. Which is q^^q^^^ 
really equivalent to saying that the best type of the Old South 
Southern man has the best manners in the world. That 
is true. They are better poised, easier and gentler, have 
nicer voices, and are more apt than any other men to 
consider the Httle wants and finenesses of women. But 
this is true, isn't it, Mrs. Patterson? The modern 
Southern son hasn't the manners of his father. He 
lacks something and laughs at the lack of it. He is 
bolder, and not so composed. The old prints which 
show the features of men of the Colonial days portray a 
grave, distinctive something that might be termed the 
spirit of the Revolution. That passed. On the faces 
of the ante-bellum men there is an expression just as 
fine, but not so severe. It is warmer; suggests a bow 
that might have graced a French salon in the old re- 
gime ; speaks silently of velvety voices and utter defer- 
ence. Does the Southern man of the present generation 
[163] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

face this picture equably, appreciatively? Or is man- 
ner a virtue that comes with time, and is it the rightful 
privilege of youth to shrug its shoulders at the insistent 
courtesy that is worn so easily by him whose eyes are 
dim and whose hair shows the touch of frost? What 
dignity will there be in a portrait of the present genera- 
tion? The writer has seen, with curious, democratic 
eyes, a prince and a good many noblemen. They 
seemed not to be grandees. They were not fussy or 
haughty. They had the same simple manner that is 
worn by the older gentlemen of the South. And, mark 
you this, the Southerner can uncover his head as the 
social peer of any living man. At least, his father can. 
The standard of manners may never change, though it 
may be lowered. It is being lowered with an ignorant 
laugh. Watch the maid and the man on the street and 
then observe how old people speak together. And the 
laugh must give way to a sigh. 

Provincial- Outsiders sometimes laugh at the "yes, ma'ams" 
^^^ and the "yes, sirs" of the South, and it is noticed that 
frequently Southern boys and girls who attend the 
Northern schools come back to face the aged with a too- 
simple "yes" or "no." Lord forbid that the terms 
should pass. They belong to the South — belong to 
Thomas Nelson Page's women; they are part of the 
speech of the hovel and the pundit caste. The words 
are used most prettily by young women to old women, 
and are the pecuHar property of the rich, soft Southern 
voice. They are the young man's quiet show of defer- 
ence to the old man; the old man's occasional proffer 
[164] 



SOUTHERN LIFE AND MANNERS 

of dignified politeness to the young man. This speech 
— this habit of language that was learned in the old, old 
house with the big white pillars — can only be used prop- 
erly and gracefully down here. And it must always be 
used down here. 

"There's a revolution in this State," said a man the The Educa- 
other day. " It is quiet but unmistakable. North Car- ^^^^^j^j 
olina is leaving the back seat of illiteracy, and the peo- 
ple — and especially the young men — are thinking for 
themselves. The revolution is along educational lines 
and will result in independence of thought. Ten years 
ago it was an easy matter to draw the applause of a large 
crowd by a rancorous partisan speech. That kind of 
talk met with no favor in the last few political cam- 
paigns, and will be coolly received in the future. The 
people are fairer and honester in politics. The spread 
of schools and increased reading have caused individual 
opinion to be more pronounced and more reliable. In 
other words, che masses of the people are tired of having 
leaders, whether in poHtics or business or other matters, 
think for them. The time is coming when the yeU of 
prejudice and little interest will act as a boomerang. 
The revolution is reason. The curse of the State is the 
cheap politician, and he will be the victim of the revo- 
lution." 

The Confederate veterans who returned yesterday The Thin 
from the reunion at New Orleans were as pleased as ^^^ ^°® 
school boys over their trip. It seemed to revive in them 
youth that easily resists the heavy hand of time. Yet a 
[165] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The Thin quarter of a century hence weekly papers here and 
Gray Line ^j^^j-g [^ ^j^g South will display headlines over an article 
which will relate that one — just the scattered single one 
— veteran still lives and remembers clearly some part 
of the great struggle between the States. The thin gray 
line is vanishing rapidly, beautifully; and as the years 
pass one sees that smaller and smaller places may hold 
all that is left of a host that once made a continent 
tremble with its march. 

Freedom "Speakers and writers who look back upon the pres- 
ent year in North Carolina may wisely conclude that 
they had better be careful about what they say or 
write," said the observant resident. "There have been 
vast liberty of speech and vast liberty of criticism ; and 
more than once the pulpit and the press have turned in 
full cry upon a man and have tried to hound him off 
the face of the earth. But a man needn't be afraid un- 
less he ought to be afraid. He can be as bold and radi- 
cal as he pleases, but if he has common sense and tries 
to be fair his utterances will not hurt him in the long 
run. The intemperate fool and the insincere extremist 
are the fellows who sink under attack. In other words, 
all this war of words and invectives needn't make any- 
body feel frightened or pessimistic about the liberty of 
the press or the liberty of the pulpit. Every man holds 
it a privilege to cuss the other man when he pleases, and 
he is apt to do this publicly when he is given opportu- 
nity, but the man who has provocation to speak can snap 
his fingers contemptuously at all the yelping crews of 
critics. The public is not going to misunderstand; and 
[i66] 



SOUTHERN LIFE AND MANNERS 

every unjust attack upon a man helps him finally. 'Be Freedom 
sure you are right and then go ahead* is a maxim that ° P*^*^ 
people quote sagely, and every man imagines that he is 
the only man who can live up to it. But if you try to be 
right you are safe enough. Any man who dares to raise 
his head above the commonplace will find people who 
are ready to slap his face, but if he is unafraid and 
speaks truth as his own heart and mind teach it to him 
he can die triumphant over wiser men and the fools who 
would badger him by disagreement." 



[167] 



CHAPTER X 



ANECDOTES 



Not a Maybe you have heard this joke before, but no mat- 
®® ^® ter. A young couple went on their honeymoon and 
stopped at a hotel. He went downstairs to smoke. He 
came back in a dreamy, sentimental mood, and, open- 
ing a door, looked into dark space. 

"Honey," said he. 

There was no reply. 

"Honey," he cried again. 

Silence. 

"Honey," he said in a louder voice. 

Then 

A bass voice came from the blackness, saying: "This 
ain't no beehive, you dam' fool. It's a bath room." 

Outflanked Col. Peter Akers, the celebrated auctioneer, who was 
in Charlotte last week, tells a story that he declares is 
original and has never been pubhshed. He was a Con- 
federate soldier and fought under Stonewall Jackson, 
and loves most to talk of that leader. 

"Jackson," said he, "was the greatest military gen- 
ius the world has ever seen. With a handful of bare- 
footed men he flanked large armies and whipped three 
[i68] 



ANECDOTES 

or four armies in a day. His genius was displayed 
oftenest in that flank movement. 

''When he died, St. Peter sent two angels for him. 
They searched the field, the hospitals — the whole army, 
but could not find him. They returned and told this to 
St. Peter. Said he, ' Why, he has flanked you both and 
has been here six hours.' " 

Addref:sing a select audience the other day, Mr. A Remark- 
George Stephens said: "A friend of mine once bought ® °°^ 
a Texas pony that was covered with hair so long that it 
trailed on the ground. He told his man to cut off the 
hair and bring the beast around to be inspected. His 
directions were obeyed and the pony was soon clipped 
clean. He was the most remarkable looking thing you 
ever saw. From his head to his tail he was covered 
with X, y, z, and other letters — marks of branding. 'I 
perceive,' said my friend, 'that this Texas steed is suf- 
fering from an eruption of quadratics.' " Mr. Stephens 
paused, turned around once, and he was alone. 

There is something pathetic in the story in The Anticlimax 
Stanley Enterprise about the doctor who murdered two 
partridges, thinking they were hurting his crop. He 
found, however, that their craws were full of cinch- 
bugs and cut-worms — and nothing more. After the 
birds were little corpses the doctor found that they were 
his good friends — had done nothing but spend their 
time in destroying the enemies of his crops. Poor little 
Bob Whites — poor little victims of ruthless man's con- 
ceited power! They were slain out of season — in the 
[169] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

heyday of love-time. Ah, what a chance were here for 
a tender poem were it not for the cinch-bugs and cut- 
worms. "He died," a letter once ran, "in peace and 
with his eyes fixed on the Great Beyond; he died of 
cholera morbus." 

Aji Inter- Some one said the other day that ex-President Cleve- 
cievelaiid ^^^ never forgot anything, and this reminded the writer 
of an incident which may be mentioned, with an apology 
for ringing in his own personality and that of two other 
North Carolinians, He was with his father and Sena- 
tor Ransom when they called on Mr. Cleveland in 
Washington during his second administration. In the 
course of the conversation Mr. Cleveland said: 

"Judge Avery, what sort of a man is Mr. Blank?" 
Mr. Blank was pretty well known as a candidate for a 
certain appointive office. Before Judge Avery could 
reply Senator Ransom said: 

"Wait a minute. Tell him the truth and the whole 
truth, the good and the bad — all you know. Let me 
tell you something. Sometimes I have come into this 
room here and have asked Mr. Cleveland to give an 
office to a certain man. I have praised the man up to 
the skies — credited him with all the virtues and no faults. 
And then the Old Man (pointing to Mr. Cleveland) 
would say: 

"'But, Ransom, didn't your man steal a sheep on 
such and such a day, in such and such a place — or some- 
thing like that?' And the man had stolen the sheep," 
concluded Senator Ransom. While Senator Ransom 
was speaking Mr. Cleveland looked at him with an ap- 
[170] 



ANECDOTES 

preciative smile on his face. Then he turned to Judge 
Avery with a question mark in his eyes, but said noth- 
ing. And Judge Avery, of course, proceeded to declare 
that if the gentleman in question had stolen a sheep, it 
was a very small sheep indeed, and should not be reck- 
oned with in the judgment of a man who despised mut- 
ton on principle. 

"Tom Reed, the Republican leader, is an oddly They Got 
frank, attractive man," said Mr. D. A. Tompkins. ^^"^ ^°°''y 
"When he was Speaker of the House I was one of a 
committee that went to Washington to ask a $250,000 
congressional appropriation for the Atlanta Expositi-on. 
We had an audience with Reed and briefly stated our 
wishes. ' Why, certainly. I'll help you to get the mon- 
ey," said the Speaker. 'And you'll get it, too. You 
dear Southern people so often come up here and make 
demands on an abstract principle of your rights that it 
is a relief and a pleasure to listen to those who discuss 
only their interests and want the government to aid 
those interests.' And Mr. Reed saw that the money was 
forthcoming as soon as possible," added Mr. Tompkins. 

"What do animosity mean?" said a Charlotte serv- Repartee 
ant girl. 

The meaning of the word was explained. 

"Well, I jess wanted to know. I was er talkin' to er 
fancy nigger last night and he said : 

"'Does de pleasures of de evenin' excite your ani- 
mosity?' En he had me." 

"What did you say?" 

[171] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

"I said: 'Dey sho' do reprehend my sagacity.' Nen 
I had him." 

He Paid for Rev. Plato T. Durham, teacher of Bible in Trinity 
^^ ^^® College, studied theology in New York and elsewhere, 
but it was while in New York that he began thinking of 
the Waldorf-Astoria. He was vigorous and young, and, 
as the Iredell County gentleman puts it, he was usually 
hungry for something to eat. He made up his mind that 
some day he would stroll down to the Waldorf and order 
a big, fine, handsome meal, including the French dishes. 
Finally he made the trip. He turned up his nose at the 
smartly dressed servants, looked hlase, and summoned 
a yawn or two to the rescue. A dignified waiter handed 
to him a menu card. He gazed upon it listlessly and his 
mind went blank. Mr. Durham read down the printed 
sheet. He was hungry. Gilded lights shone about 
him. The tall waiter leaned over attentively. Mr. 
Durham cleared his throat delicately, reahzing just 
where the French accent should fall, and then said 
sternly : 

"Waiter, you may bring me a huckleberry pie." 
The waiter seemed dazed, but departed. Mr. Durham 
wished to crawl under the table to hide his shame. But 
the deed was done. Here in a second he, who had gone 
barefooted in huckleberry patches in his childhood but 
had never thought of a huckleberry in ten years, had 
been smitten by the latent childhood in him, and while 
the voice of a bejewelled blonde in a room across the 
way was singing classic song there he was a-sitting and 
a-waiting for a huckleberry pie. Oh, he stood by his 
[172] 



ANECDOTES 

guns and ate the pie. He found it was a seventy-five- 
cent huckleberry pie. He tipped the waiter and strode 
back to the college, where he ate corned beef with a full 
heart. 

Major O. M. Sadler stood at the square and expressed Epitaphs 
his opinion of the weather after the manner of an old 
Jack Tar who was rounding the cape in a storm. He 
added that he didn't like epitaphs. " Give me," he said, 
"a few flowers, but no words. The only epitaph that 
ever appealed to me very much was this : 

"'Here lies the body of John Smith, accidentally 
shot as a mark of affection by his brother Jim — with 
one of Colt's revolvers, old kind, brass mounted, and 
of such is the kingdom of heaven.' " 
Hs * * 

"The only trouble about that epitaph," said Col. 
John R. Morris, "is its lack of the pathetic. It con- 
tains a beautiful sentiment, but it hasn't the mournful 
ring that adds so much to the effect of an affectionate 
epitaph. Let me call your attention to the tenderness 
in the following statement which I found on a tomb- 
stone : 

"'Here lies the mortal remains of John Henderson, 
whose parents were drowned while on their way to 
America. Had they lived they would have been buried 
here also.' " 

"Or this 

" ' Little Johnnie Leach has flitted from our reach, 
He went away beyond the shining river, 
But we know he's better off, for he had an awful cough, 
And was threatened with congestion of the liver.' " 

[173] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The Judge's If you ever happen, by any chance, to find Judge F. I. 
Memory Qg^orne in a mood when he is not thinking about some- 
thing else and wants to talk to you, it will be worth while 
to listen to what he has to say. He is a man who re- 
members everything he read twenty-five years ago, and 
laughingly agrees with Sir William Hamilton's idea 
that one forgets nothing, though he may not recall ev- 
erything that he remembers. The judge went to Ari- 
zona and back recently without seeing or remembering 
a blessed thing, but he walked into the shop the other 
day with his head tilted back, muttering: '"A better 
bad habit of swearing, a better bad habit of swearing' 
than — than — what? That's what I want to know." 

"Steady, judge. What's up?" 

"Nothing; 'a better bad habit of swearing?' Get 
me 'The Merchant of Venice.' " The play was brought 
to him. As he hurriedly turned the leaves of the book 
he muttered under his breath, "Talk to me about mod- 
ern authors — any authors. Where is there anything like 
the description of Absalom: 

"'From the sole of his foot even to the crown of his 
head there was no blemish in him.' 

"Or this: 

"'And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and 
they seemed unto him but a few days for the love he 
had to her.' 

"Oh, here it is," said the judge, and he read aloud 
Portia's words: 

"'He hath a better bad habit of frowning than the 
Count Palatine.' 

"And I would have sworn that it was 'swearing' and 
[174] 



ANECDOTES 

not 'frowning,' " declared Judge Osborne with a dreamy 
look on his face. "You see, I have been listening to a 
friend of mine talk, and his words reminded me of the 
quotation," 

Will somebody please tell the truth about the cow More 
and her cud ? In this country, when a cow suddenly jhan^^ ^ 
grows pale and lethargic and ceases to do business with Politics 
the water wagon, some old negro comes along and says, 
"She's lost her cud," and straightway he fastens a lot 
of greasy dish-rags to a hoe handle and rams the rags 
down the animal's throat. At once the cow resumes 
her complexion and her connection with the dairy, and, 
notwithstanding her hereditary loss of upper teeth, 
chews away as vigorously as a gum-girl. Is this fashion 
of loading a cow with old rags a superstition, or does 
her internal machinery really require occasional doses 
of red flannel ? And when the old-time negroes — the 
only genuine cow doctors — die, what in the world will 
become of cows who are unfortunate enough to lose 
their cuds ? The Old Man declares that this subject is 
more interesting to him than politics. 

As a rule, women do not make good witnesses, by the Col. Jones 
way. They get nervous. This is especially true about ^itnes^s 
women who know nothing about court-rooms except 
from reading newspapers, and imagine that lawyers earn 
their living by the merciless examination of witnesses. 
This fact was illustrated a year or so ago when the Sum- 
merrow-Baruch libel case was being tried. One of the 
witnesses was a Charlotte lady who happened to be in 
[175] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Col. Jones the Baruch store when Mrs. Summerrow received the 
Witness ^^^^g^^^ insults. The examination of the witness had 
been delayed for two days, and when she at length came 
to the stand she was visibly agitated. One understood 
her feeling. She imagined that some one intended to 
twist her up and force her to seem to tell an untruth. 
And, in spite of her fright, it could be seen that she had 
determined that she, a lone woman who was about to 
be badgered and browbeaten, should not be made 
to tell a lie. The examination was something like 
this: 

"Madam," said Col. Hamilton C. Jones — a most 
courtly man — "please go ahead and tell what happened 
in the store. Tell it in your own way, and " 

"Now, Colonel Jones," interrupted the witness, 
"don't try to lay any trap for me. I came here to tell 
the truth and the truth I will tell, for " 

"But, madam," interrupted Col. Jones, "I assure 
you " 

"Colonel Jones, don't attempt to get me excited or 
mix me up. I don't know much about this case, 
and " 

"Madam," said the colonel a trifle sternly, "I have 
no wish to mix you up. All I want you to do is to give 
a plain recital of the facts. Now please go ahead and 
give your testimony. What took place in the store at 
the time you were there?" 

"There you are. Colonel Jones, there you are trying 
to get me bothered," said the witness, who was tremen- 
dously excited. "If you will only let me alone " 

"But, madam, I am doing nothing to you. You are 
[176 J 



ANECDOTES 

a witness in this case, and I must ask you to proceed 
with your evidence." 

"Oh, I see you have laid a trap for me, Colonel 
Jones. I know I am only a woman and don't know 
anything about courts, but I would have thought, Col- 
onel Jones " 

"But, madam " 



"I beg of you. Colonel Jones, not to persist in trying 
to make me tell a lie. As I said before " 

"Madam^ I " 

"I came here as a witness who had no feeling one 
way or the other, and " 

"But, madam, I only want you to tell the truth, and 
I am doing nothing to disturb you." 

"Oh, yes, you are. Colonel Jones — you know you 
are. I can plainly see that you have made up your 
mind to catch me in some way, and I must request you 
not to do that, Colonel Jones, for " 

"Stand aside, madam," said Colonel Jones, as he 
mopped the perspiration from his brow. 

As Mayor Brown sat in his private ofSce Monday, Down on 
reading a copy of Balzac in the original and occasionally ^^"'^ 
reflecting on the possibilities of frog culture, a resident 
entered hurriedly and in an excited manner exclaimed: 

"Voila!" 

"Voila yourself," said the mayor pleasantly. 

"Bon soir," said the visitor. 

"Bon jour," observed the mayor. 

" J'ai bonne cause," declared the visitor. " Out at the 
park auditorium they will play to-night 'Camille,' the 
12 [177J 



rOLE COMMENTS 

Down on naughty production of Alexander Dumas, fils. Oh, so 
French Art jj^proper, SO shocking, so-er-en dishabille. So-er-vif ! 
Cut it out, else we become corrupt." 

"Nom de Voila! Gargon!" said the mayor; 

and then he sent for Chief of Police Irwin and instructed 
him to go out, tout frais fait, watch the "lady of the ca- 
melias" and corral all exposed portions of the French 
drama. 

"Oui, oui," said the chief in the most excellent 
French. "Nous verrons," added the chief sternly. " Je 
main tiendrai le droit. Je suis pret," concluded the offi- 
cer as he departed to gaze upon Camille. 

An immense audience filled the auditorium. The 
fashionable folk who occupied seats paid ten cents per 
head. Those who stood up were charged nothing. Do 
you know " Camille" ? Well, the play offers refinement 
and fascination in a setting of wickedness. Your inter- 
pretation of it is — as you like. The audience whooped 
its approval, and gave the first curtain calls of the sea- 
son. "The Latta Park Stock Company played the 
thing as well as the Olga Nethersole company," proudly 
said Mr. F. D. Sampson, who manages the actor peo- 
ple. And there was no argument. 

"If a woman comes out there on that stage without 
any — nous verrons," said the chief, tres chretienne- 
ment. "In other words, what I will do for Camille will 
be a plenty," observed the officer. 

" JoH," said Officer Summerrow, from Newton, who 
also spoke most excellent French and is an authority on 
the Gallic school of art. 

"Oui," said the chief scornfully. 
[178] 



ANECDOTES 

The play proceeded, not merrily, of course, but to the 
entire satisfaction of the spectators, and the actors. The 
latter knew the object of the chief's visit, and watched 
him narrowly. To relieve the exciting, not to say mor- 
bid, tension of the play, they rigged a woman up for a 
vaudeville stunt which spelled more or less legs. And, 
for the sake of the law, they overdraped her until she 
was fashioned to widow's weeds. There could be no 
protest over any feature of the evening. 

"I will return tout de suite — if not sooner," ejaculated 
the chief. "Every now and then I was sure somebody 
would bust over and do something downright wicked, 
but, voila, I was disappointed. Tracassarie all! Yet I 
am toujours pret to pull Camille or Lucille or Maud or 
PhylUs or just any of 'em." 

"Voila," exclaimed the mayor when he heard the 
chief's report. 

"Voila tout," said Chief Irwin. 

"N' importe," remarked the fastidious resident. 

"Good mornin', Carrie," said a voice from the 
Tombs. 

Vive la Peruna! 

"There's going to be an afternoon tea at my house," The After- 
said a resident yesterday, "and I am going to leave °°°^ ®^ 
home. An afternoon tea is a place where those present 
lose their digestion and those absent their reputation. 
I prefer to lose my reputation." 

"Forty naught, naught, one, please, central." Corrected 

"You mean forty, aught, aught one?" 
[179] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

"Yes, thank you." 
"You are welcome." 

Alas! Since the battle of Gettysburg, Col. H. C. Jones has 
shot quail, landed bass, and done everything else under 
a silk hat that had, somehow, become a part of himself. 
And now he wears a Panama. Displace a crown for 
tinsel — alas! alas! 



[i8o] 



CHAPTER XI 

OBSERVATIONS ON LITERATURE 

"The day of dime novels has almost passed," said an The 
observant resident, "and the glory of the James boys, "^® Novel 
Wild Bill, Deadwood Dick and scores of other Western 
desperadoes is forgotten history. From the time of 
James Fenimore Cooper until ten or fifteen years ago 
this country was flooded with paper-backed, lurid tales 
which teemed with blood-spilling and hairbreadth es- 
capes in every chapter, and handled the wonderful ex- 
ploits of impossible New York detectives and the ad- 
venture and scalping parties on the plains with equal 
ease. The stories were the curse of nearly every school. 
Boys read them at home when they should have been 
studying th'^ir lessons, absorbed them stealthily during 
school hours, and discussed them at recess. The Frank 
Reade Company, the Beadles, and other cheap book- 
houses made immense fortunes, and received a very 
large proportion of the pocket money of boys from 
Maine to Texas. 

"But the dime novel doesn't pass muster with a gen- 
eration that places a baseball player on a pedestal, 
nurses ping-pong pangs or kindred ailments, and splits 
its hair in the middle and goes to sit — around girl par- 
ties after fourteen years of age. Such boys are not in- 
[i8i] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

terested in the noble yarn about Alkali Isaac's destroy- 
ing an entire Indian village with his trusty bowie knife. 
They lack imagination, and don't care a hang for the 
details of the Custer fight, the fate of the last Mohican, 
or Old Sleuth's terrible fight with murderers in the 
Bowery. Modern boys, as a rule, don't read, and the 
younger men are little better. They hold up Sherlock 
Holmes as a criterion and laugh at the old-time detec- 
tive tragedies; and they dabble in the emotional 
French school and sociological novels that prate dirty 
realism. 

"Yes, you will see that the genus of youth has 
changed. Nowadays Fielding's Tom Jones doesn't 
even assume the dimensions of a ghost, and the vivid 
characters of Cooper, Marryat and their ilk are dying. 
And what boy knows Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry 
Finn? They teach physiology and Shylock in the 
schools, and the product cares for the two-step and not 
the deadly trail of the avenger. I'm sorry. The dime 
novel, taken at its worst, certainly kept a boy's mind 
active — made him think about something." 

Books, Old The booksellers usually have to go to the rear part of 
^" ®^ their stores or upstairs to get a book by an author whose 
reputation is justly fixed, but they're selHng no end of 
red and blue and pink and green books that are written 
by unknown people. Blame the prevalent taste and not 
the booksellers. The classics sell in ten, twenty and 
thirty-cent shape. The characters in these are still used 
by our fathers and mothers for illustrative purposes, but 
we match reminiscences of cheap modern creatures who 
[182] 



OBSERVATIONS ON LITERATURE 

move vulgarly. The best-selling book is Rev. Tom Books, Old 
Dixon's "The One Woman," and the literary quahty ^nd New 
of the author is something ghastly. The strongest novel 
of the year, in several continents, is Mrs. Humphry 
Ward's "Lady Rose's Daughter," a superbly written 
character-sketch and a morbid, unnatural book that a 
man wouldn't care for his sister to read. There's a 
Carnegie library down the street that has been in opera- 
tion only a short time. Do you know what the majority 
of people — and especially the younger people — will take 
from there and read ? The smelly, new books, of course. 
This is a cultured community, but the literary flavor is 
less of an inheritance than commercial prosperity. Who's 
to talk book lore worth hearing after the older genera- 
tion passes away ? Who's to replace these women who 
write Italian hands, argue the relative merits of the 
greatest poets, and can reproduce from memory Scott's 
best style? Who's to hold up a standard that under- 
stands — that rejects all that is not fine and strong and 
clean ? A little while — and who will there be down here 
to mock the loud-hued books that reek with tawdry, 
rotten sentiment ? 

Oh, nobody. And it doesn't make any difference, 
does it ? There is no money in the thing, anyway, and 
people can talk about something else. Of course they 
can . . . can talk of "pork and cabbages and kings" 
and the boll weevil and lots of things apart from Utera- 
ture. This protest, then ? Why, don't take it seriously, 
please. You perceive that it filled a certain amount of 
space ? 

Voila tout! 

[183] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The "The speed mania is the hoodoo of modern litera- 
Majdac ^^^^5" said the observant resident. "You are always 
swearing at the new pink and green smelly books, but 
what else can you expect from authors who dictate to a 
stenographer? 'Wilhelm Meister' cost Goethe ten 
years of labor. Imagine a modern writer working ten 
months on a book ! Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Nelson 
Page, Mark Twain and WiUiam Dean Howells are the 
only American writers who will hve half a century 
hence; and Edgar Allan Poe is the only big Hterary 
light on this side of the water that will shine forever. 
In this mad rush what chance is there to produce a 
great writer — who has time to think and prepare for 
writing? At the Baptist Convention here 'The Little 
Shepherd of Kingdom Come' was the only book that 
found encomiums, and the convention was at a high 
ebb of mentaUty. The truth of the matter is that there 
is no such thing nowadays as Hterary culture except 
among old people ; and a hundred years from now peo- 
ple will not be caring to read anything except the news- 
papers." 

Characters Dickens created handsome, Hkable fellows, but 
in Fiction gtegj-forth is his only character that might have been la- 
belled dangerous to woman. Scott's men won hearts 
with the same finesse that they won battles. Thack- 
eray was an exact photographer and shows only every- 
day types. Bulwer Lytton's lordly men are mourn- 
fully pedantic and tiresome, Eugene Aram being a 
single exception. There is a subtle fascination about 
the Richard Feverel of George Meredith ; but the most 
[184J 



OBSERVATIONS ON LITERATURE 

striking j&gure of the English school of fiction is John Characters 
Rochester in Jane Eyre. He is a man — all man ; fine, "^ ^^ ^°^ 
faulty, stern, tender, humorous, intense. Any one who 
reads Jane Eyre must come under the influence of John 
Rochester. His was a presence that must have been 
felt in any room; he had all the simple elements that 
appeal to both women and men. In all fiction he is the 
most vivid, pulsing figure. 

* * * 

Among present-day writers there are only three who 
have the sure art of portraying fascinating men — ^Henry 
Seton Merriman, Anthony Hope and Richard Harding 
Davis. This assertion comes from one who reckons 
the three writers below first class, but their men are 
clearly drawn and are the kind of men that would fas- 
cinate women. Kipling has the queer power of mak- 
ing one understand how his men could chain and hold 
forever one woman — but only one woman. 

* * * 

Apart from the characters of Richard Harding Davis, 
the men in the American school of fiction make no par- 
ticular impression on the reader. They are too unnat- 
ural. Look back upon all the American books you 
have read and you are not apt to recall a single lover 
who is worth the name. What one is fascinating? 
Where is a single one that is half so attractive as the 
idle, careless Van Bibber men? Where is one whose 
charm is proved by his creator ? 

* * * 

But the writer did not intend to be led into the dis- 
cussion of a subject that permits unlimited room for 
[185I 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Characters difference of opinion. In brief space he has had lati- 
in Fiction ^^^^ from St. Elmo to Launcelot, and has merely voiced 
personal preference. Thoughts of the latter-day men 
who break up happy homes was the real reason for this 
rumination, anyway. And they don't do it; that's the 
blunt reply to The Gazette. In the smoking car you 
have had men who wore loud ties, and hats on the back 
of their heads, sit down beside you and tell you about 
the wreckage they had created by their contact with 
the eternal feminine. They would have led you to 
believe that v/henever they entered a village young 
women followed them just as the children followed 
the Pied Piper of Hamelin. These fellows and the 
cads who stand in hotel lobbies or in the drinking 
rooms of clubs and blow about their prowess with 
women — they are all little rough fools who would jar 
the sensibilities of a washerwoman. These reputed, or 
admitted, heart-breakers — they don't really do any busi- 
ness, to put it crudely. The modern man, any way you 
take him, is not built for a fascinator. He is a business 
machine whose clothes are not pretty, whose muscles 
are apt to be flabby, and who converses with a woman 
just as he dictates to a typewriter. If he wins one 
woman he is lucky; if he fascinates two, the world 
holds up its hands and sees not the fluke that is, but the 
fascination that exists in the imagination. Any man 
can understand why any other man can fall in love with 
almost any woman, but no man can understand why 
any woman should fall in love with any man. Which 
suggests that the writer may not be altogether un- 
prejudiced. 

[i86] 



OBSERVATIONS ON LITERATURE 

The judge was not prepared to say what he thought Favorite 
was the finest or most expressive sentence in Hterature. ^^^^S^^ 
Are you? It is an interesting matter to puzzle over. 
For some reason Victor Hugo's characterization of 
Napoleon has always impressed the writer more than 
anything he ever read : 

"The mighty somnambulist of a vanished dream," 
said the French author in speaking of Napoleon after 
the battle of Waterloo. 

* * * 

The best description of anger is in "Hiawatha": 

"And his heart was hot within him; 
Like a burning coal his heart was." 

* * * 

Going to the other extreme, Tennyson was probably 
happiest in a tender couplet-picture of the effect of love. 
Some one asked him once what he liked best in all the 
things he had written. He picked up a pen and wrote : 

"Love took up the harp of hfe and smote on all the chords with might, 
Smote the chord of self, that, trembhng, passed in music out of 
sight." 

* * * 

Apropos of Biblical quotations, did you ever see any- 
thing humorous in the Bible ? If you haven't, you read 
the history of Jacob until you come to the place where 
it says: 

"And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice 
and wept." 

That sentence presents the funniest picture ever. 
Just imagine a man walking up to a strange woman, 
[187] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

kissing her on the mouth, and then throwing back his 
head and bursting into tears. What an orful chump 
Jacob must have seemed to Rachel! 

"Reces- "Kipling reached Mitchell County in 1898 — that is, 
^^°wt "hU ^^ 'Recessional' arrived there that year," said a visitor 
County in the city. "A certain newspaper in this State kept 
ringing the changes on the thing and the lawyers over 
in the mountains got hold of the poem. They worked it 
to sensational advantage, and for four successive terms 
of court every lawyer who went before a Bakers ville 
jury was loaded with the 'Recessional.' You know, 
nobody in the world can speak like those mountain 
lawyers who roll back their cuffs over the sleeves of their 
long frock coats, and sweat, and talk at the top of their 
voices. They liked Kipling, and on a quiet day you 
could hear 'f^m screaming 'Lord God of Hosts!' for 
a mile, while the jurors chewed tobacco and wept. The 
iteration of 'Lest we forget' in a big voice has won 
many a verdict in a blockading case, and the impressive 
conclusion of a peroration with 'Our far-flung battle 
line ' saved the day in a murder trial. Kipling became 
the most popular man in Mitchell, and the attorney who 
made the most effective recitation of the 'Recessional' 
was generally a winner. Matters came to such a pass, 
finally, that Kipling's influence was felt even in httle 
ejection cases. The situation was so serious that the 
judges decided that a single 'Lest we forget' would be 
held as contempt of court. This ended the reign of 
Kipling, which will be memorable in the annals of 
Mitchell." 

[188] 



OBSERVATIONS ON LITERATURE 

Out on these terrible western-flavored plays that are The 
forever dragging coarse-mannered men with pistols and p^cYiorf "* 
crude speech into drawing rooms and marrying them 
to women who use Bostonesey words and wear resplen- 
dent gowns. The Virginian in Owen Wister's book was 
all right ; but the slow-talking Westerner with his eter- 
nal prate about "Mavericks" and his ridiculously 
loving heart is getting to be offiy tiresome. It is a pity 
that Tim Murphy has such an absurd character to im- 
personate. The cowboy is being overdone — exalted too 
much. He is so sweet and childish and tries so hard to 
keep from eating up other people that he ought to fly in 
with wings strapped to him — if he could only manage 
to conceal his pistols for a minute or so. The cowboy 
plays and these ghastly things that picture domestic 
scenes in New England don't seem to go down here, 
somehow or other. Even the London society plays are 
more popular. In these everybody is dehciously and 
consistently wicked, and no wild Indian types mar har- 
mony by trying to do refined stunts. The cowboys are 
the limit. 

In an article in Ainslee's Magazine Miss Geraldine "The Age 
Bonner discusses "The Age of Charm" in women, and ^'^^^^ 
gives a very interesting running summary of the ages of 
the famous women in fiction and history. Sir Walter 
Scott's heroines were sixteen or seventeen years old; 
those of Thackeray and Dickens twenty. Jane Eyre 
was only nineteen years of age, "an error in art for 
which the fashion of the day is responsible." JuHet, 
the only heroine in Shakespeare whose age is given, 
[189] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

was fourteen years old. Balzac surprised the world by 
introducing to it still fresh and bewitching women of 
thirty. Diane de Poicters and Madame de Maintenon 
were forty; and "the women of the salons and the Rev- 
olution continued these traditions of an irresistible fas- 
cination at the age of autumnal maturity." Anne Bol- 
eyn was twenty-four years old. Stella was loved best by 
Dean Swift when she was nearly forty. Venus de Milo 
was thirty-two, and Thackeray is the expert authority 
who declares that thirty-two is the age when a woman 
is in her perfect moment of full bloom. Cleopatra was 
thirty-eight when she and Antony "kissed away king- 
doms" ; and Helen of Troy was nearly forty when Paris 
was smitten with her beauty. 

Wagner's There are a number of the best critics who consider 
iSe" "l"^^ Simple Life," by Charles Wagner, the strongest 
of the new books that are having a large sale at the pres- 
ent time. The purpose of the book is attractive enough 
surely. It is a "plea for simphcity in life — for simple 
thoughts, simple words, simple needs, simple beauty." 
There is such a nauseating amount of the other sort of 
thing. Yet pretence never deceived anybody. The 
real heart of the man shows in spite of himself. That is 
sad, and sometimes exposes a hypocrite. Brains are 
not rated for more than they are worth, and thus is given 
continual opportunity to laugh at pretenders. Every- 
body who mixes with the world is estimated at a true 
valuation. Everybody who isn't simple is a fool. There 
are no bounds to the application of the text. It demands 
daily humihty for one's self and charity for one's neigh- 
[190] 



OBSERVATIONS ON LITERATURE 

bor. One person in a thousand wants a simple life, and 
everybody bows before it in admiration. Who do you 
know that is simple, really simple — leads a simple life ? 
And who is happy that isn't simple — doesn't lead a 
simple life ? The questions are apart from the book — 
just suggested by the title. But who does care for sim- 
ple words, simple thoughts, simple beauty ? Nowadays 
childhood, going into maturity, gets a training that fits 
it to give the wrong sort of reply. 

" In the Forest of Arden," a children's story that Mrs. Magic 
Margaret Busbee Shipp has been writing for The Ob- 
server, is very sweet and human. It shows genuine chil- 
dren ; breathes a charming, natural prattle. It lacked 
only in one point. In the story nobody said to nobody 
else, "One time there was a bear." Just those words 
were necessary, and the child who has not quivered in 
anticipation at the darksome sound of the sentence has 
missed one of the greatest pleasures. Cluster little ones 
at your knee and speak on fairies and sprites and 
nymphs and godmothers and hobgoblins, and they will 
desert you in the middle of your narrative at the cry of 
"One time there was a bear." It is not permissible to 
say, "In the dear, dead days of long ago there resided a 
bear," or anything Hke that. You must be very solemn 
and dignified and say just, " One time there was a bear." 
Any sort of a story will be satisfactory after this beautiful 
prelude. But you needn't try to win success by saying 
" One time there was a lion," or " One time there was a 
elerphunt." No, no — you will be merely wasting your 
time. "One time there was a bear!" In the distant 
[191] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

ages some great philosopher, longing to bring a common 
blessing to all mankind, must have created that mar- 
vellous utterance. It will bring a thrill of ecstacy to the 
boy, and it makes the little woman nestle closer and 
closer to you, confidingly, humorously, expectantly. If 
the Pied Piper of Hamelin had only known what to say 
he needn't have blown on his flute. . . . "One time 
there was a bear!" 

"The Right "The Right of Way," the best thing that has ever 
^^ been written by Mr. Gilbert Parker, and the strongest 
novel that has been published in years, has become an 
all-absorbing topic of local literary discussion. In a 
small town in the western part of this State the book 
clubs dropped Balzac and Maeterlinck recently and fell 
to warring as to whether or not "The Right of Way" is 
immoral. The conflict is still on. The truth is that the 
book is as clean as cleanness except, perchance, one 
reads it looking for — trouble. It is quite beautiful and 
strong and artistic. 

"The Little "The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come," by John 
of Kmgdom^^^' J^-» ^^ having a larger sale than any of the new books 
Come " displayed by the local bookstores. It is well written and 
gives a fascinating picture of life in Kentucky. Yet in 
holding up as a hero a Southern man who fought for the 
Union side, through conscientious motive, the book es- 
says a difficult task. That sort of exploit was not ad- 
mired or interesting in real life. As the basis for a novel 
it is rather unsafe; for the author and the reader will 
have different opinions of the real character of the hero. 

[192] 



OBSERVATIONS ON LITERATURE 

Still, the book is very readable. The more one sees of 
the other modern books the more he likes "The Virgin- 
ian," the best novel that has been written in America in 
many years. 

Even on Sunday night, when the whole world has re- A Thought 
turned from preaching and is filled with spiritual ex- gte^nson 
hortation, it may not be out of place to think on the 
words of "A Task," written by Robert Louis Steven- 
son, They are for living purposes only and read : 

" To be honest, to be kind, to earn a little and to spend 
a little less, to make upon the whole a family happier 
for his presence, to renounce when that shall be neces- 
sary and not be embittered, to keep a few friends, but 
these without capitulation, above all, on the same grim 
condition, to keep friends with himself — here is a task 
for all that a man has of fortitude and deHcacy." 



13 [193] 



CHAPTER XII 

IDEALS OF WRITING AND SPEAKING 

The To have a thing to tell and to tell it — that is the spirit 
biinple bty e ^^ modern writing. Time was when the world found 
sheer fascination in voluminous and bitter controversy 
as to how many angels could stand on the point of a 
needle, and the thought of putting the vernacular or 
plain speech in books was horrifying. Only now and 
then, through many ages, did a great, simple light shine. 
Most brains were beclouded with ponderous phrases. 
There was a rumbling in the head and words poured 
on paper with the hmitless ease of a schoolboy's com- 
mas. To write grandly, mystically, transcendentally — 
that was the old-time idea. Judged by present stand- 
ards, this was a waste of raw material and quite boring. 
The classics that Hve and are best known are strongest 
in simpHcity, in the easy telling of a thing. The vener- 
able johnnies who died in Uterature used a milHon 
words too many. 

* * * 

And the easiest writing is the hardest writing. Which 
is a compHment to the new school, whose demand is to 
trim to the briefest statement of truth or opinion. May- 
be the principle is too businesslike for beauty, but it 
gains in other respects. Blackstone knew the law, but 
[194] 



IDEALS OF WRITING AND SPEAKING 

one of the New York Sun's cracks could take any of The 

Blackstone's volumes, rewrite it in half size, and never Simp e stye 

lose an argument or fact. The newspaper theory is to 

nail the dynamic point in the first paragraph, to then 

swing to your rhetorical introduction, development and 

conclusion, and to play up your stuff so that you may 

hold interest till the last line is read. Style and clean 

diction are not forgotten, but writing for writing's sake 

is the unforgivable crime. With such a criterion it is 

small wonder that the new school scorns the methods 

of the past. 

^ ^ ^ 

"1 have always had one idea in writing an editorial," 
said one of the best-known Southern editors to the 
writer. " I have in mind a man in the middle of a crowd 
and I want to brush aside everything and reach him, 
hold him as quickly as possible. The man represents 
the main point that I wish to make, and I feel hampered 
till I have clinched him." 'Tis the same idea, you see. 
No matter what the subject may be, writing that has a 
thing to tell and tells it without ever losing sight of a 
purpose — why, that writing commands attention and is 
durable. 

* * * 

Ideas are incidental, or unnecessary. Referring to 
an article written by a rather important personage in a 
neighboring town, a resident said in serious pride: "He 
wrote so fine that but very few people could under- 
stand him." Yet in the name of art and common sense 
the communication in question should have been re' 
[195] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The duced from one thousand to one hundred words. It 
Simp e Sty e ^^^ ^y[ just fine writing — the result of half -education, 
conceit and an ear for music. Strong, sure, eloquent 
speech is most beautiful. It is clothed fine, maybe, but 
is ruthlessly direct in its splendor. It is most often the 
clear, terse thought from the mind of a gentleman; is 
independent in strength, and needs no word trickery. 
Editor Marshall, of the Gastonia Gazette, is always talk- 
ing about some man who writes iceberg English— stuff 
that shivers one with its cool incisiveness, and Mr. Mar- 
shall very wisely holds up this Uterature as his model. 
Yet most writers reach out for fine writin' and will be 
sophomores to the end of their days; being unmindful 
of the fact that the simplest and best, as well as the 
hardest, way of word-making consists in the selection 
of short, pungent Saxon sentences. 

* * * 

The increased number of North Carolinians who in- 
dulge in foreign travel has, somehow, resulted in few 
personal lectures on the old country. There seems to 
be an impression that a three-months' journey on the 
Continent is not necessarily followed by either expert or 
interesting information, and a denizen with hayseed in 
his hair has been known to yawn over a garrulous ac- 
count of the wickedness of Paree. 

The man who has a mind to see things and knows 
how to tell them is the only person who has an appre- 
ciative audience. He may be fresh from St. Petersburg 
or he may come from Paw Creek, but if he understands 
his fellow-man and the quality of human interest his ob- 
[196] 



IDEALS OF WRITING AND SPEAKING 

servations will command attention anywhere. Nine- The 
tenths of the world talks incessantly, but the one-tenth Simple Style 
doesn't Hsten one-tenth of the time. A bit of humor 
picked up in a cornfield may make all mankind laugh, 
or the seeing of pathos in the death of a yellow dog in 
the back country may cause thousands to weep, but a 
suit case tagged by half a dozen foreign capitals is no 
guarantee that the owner will not wag his tongue in 
vain speech and boredom. Anybody can write and any- 
body can talk, but it is a herculean task to hold any- 
body's attention for five minutes." 

* * * 

Once more the protest comes against those writers 
who insist upon refusing to allow a dead man to die. 
People who write obituary notices on this subject are 
not expected to be perfectly clear as to expression ; but 
one shudders over the way men on the State press mur- 
der adjectives, adverbs and long, stout clauses in efforts 
to get around a succinct statement of facts. Why ? Is 
there a word in the English language that is half as 
strong as — dead ? He is dead. Can you write anything 
more stately or eloquent than that sentence ? Yet even 
papers like The New Orleans Times-Democrat ramble 
rhetorical miles out of the way to keep from using the 
word. You see it : "He has passed into the unknown," or 
"He has entered sweetly into rest," or "The spirit winged 
its flight." These expressions are all right in their place, 
but they become distasteful when a newspaper man, 
who is supposed to nail his essential facts in his first par- 
agraph, uses them with a weepily eloquent idea of avoid- 
[197] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

ing a word that touches heaven with its sublime strength. 
"Intothenight— into the Hght!" Death! Dead! God 
and eternity are in the word. And it is a simple, fair 
word, opposing unkind discrimination and offering dig- 
nity above final democracy. 

A Bit of A specimen of Mr. Henry Blount's rhetoric, printed 
Rhetoric -^^ ^j^g paper a week or so ago, has attracted a good deal 
of attention. In one sentence, which was exactly a 
quarter of a column long in actuahty and heaven high in 
sentiment, Mr. Blount lassoed all the biggest descrip- 
tive adjectives and more metaphors than the ordinary 
writer would use in a year. His climax, it may be re- 
membered, pictured, in a majestic style, a moth that had 
wiped a bitter tear from its eye and had decided that it 
would not fix a "corroding fang." It must be grand to 
be able to write like that. In his entire literary career 
Mr. Blount never said or thought anything that he could 
relate in Anglo-Saxon, and, without a bit of effort, he 
sees the stars singing together as the peroration to a dog 
fight and a sun-kissed goddess instead of a cross-eyed 
blonde. In all his years of newspaper work Mr. Blount 
recognized nothing as trivial or prosaic, and always, 
when he speaks, there comes that steady flow of gurg- 
ling, rhythmic words, not to be likened to the language 
of any other man that ever lived. He is a genius — a 
happy genius, though one may differ with him about 
rhetorical qualities and quantities. For Henry Blount 
is ever on the Alps, and at breakfast he wears a mood 
that may seldom bless the ordinary man, making him 
wish to bare his head under the beauty of the starlit 
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IDEALS OF WRITING AND SPEAKING 

sky or humble himself reverentially in the presence of 
Nature's perfection. 

"Once more the graduates are leaving college and The College 
are going out to face the world," said the observant ^^^'*"**^ 
man, "and I am wondering which of the boys will try 
to learn and which will try to teach — which will suc- 
ceed and which will fail. I speak of learning and teach- 
ing in the larger, untechnical sense. I have seen valedic- 
torians who went out with communicative but unrecep- 
tive minds to teach things to the world. They now have 
charge of schools at forty dollars a month. I have seen 
boys who made second-year math, by a fluke, and who 
won college reputation only as athletes. They walked 
into sterner living with a keen wish to absorb and learn, 
and as the years passed they came to the intellectual 
life. A college education is only the beginning of things, 
and it has ruined a man when it sent him out as a self- 
constituted tutor to the rest of mankind. You recog- 
nize that type the instant you see it. It includes young 
men, middle-aged men and old men, and none of them 
has any capacity for growth. The habit of trying to 
teach or tell things to the world is incurable, and it is 
too apt to begin at college. It will spoil the lawyer, the 
politician — injure any man in public or private life. It 
will make a man the dictator at a family dinner table, 
the spokesman for every crowd on the streets, and it will 
close his ears to the instruction that he should receive 
from his fellow man every day that he lives. Mark the 
man who listens and thinks, and the man who thinks 
he knows it all and talks without listening. The talkers 
[199] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

are in the majority in the world, but the listeners — the 
learners — rule the world." 

Use of A man writes by the light that the Lord has given 
^^ ^ him: and the Comment Man says "unnice" and "un- 
sweet," because he likes the sense and sound of the 
words. Looking for his good-natured critic, he sees the 
visage of Mr. Henry A. Page, of Aberdeen, a man 
whose opinion on any subject must challenge attention. 
But, seriously, Mr. Page, what is the matter with 
"unsweet"? Lord Bacon loved the word, and in his 
"Essay on Death" — a model for all the ages — he 
says: 

"But I consent with Caesar, that the suddenest pas- 
sage is the easiest, and there is nothing more awakens 
our resolve and readiness to die than the quieted con- 
science, strengthened with opinion that we shall be well 
spoken of upon earth by those that are just and of the 
family of virtue; the opposite whereof is a fury to man, 
and makes even life unsweet." Man, where can you 
find anything quainter or finer than this ? " Makes even 
life unsweet" — can't you understand that? 

* * * 

Col. Al. Fairbrother, editor of Everything, champions 
the word anent, and says it is a smooth and juicy 
word. That's a matter of taste. But you never heard 
any one use the word in conversation, or pronounce it 
easily or naturally. It is one of the few old Saxon or 
Scotch words that lack in strength and euphony. But 
a man can't be dogmatic about this matter. He Hkes 
[ 200] 



IDEALS OF WRITING AND SPEAKING 

certain words and he doesn't like certain words; that Use of 
is all. And the writer abominates anent and alas and ^ 

lovely. Col. Fairbrother remembers that a correspond- 
ent once "jumped astride the comment man" for using 
the word unnice. He did. It was Henry Page, who in 
the same breath held up the word nasty as a desirable 
expression for euphemistic parlance. There was a 
fierce Httle row, and after it was all over the mind of the 
comment man wasn't changed in the least. He likes 
unnice and he likes unsweet; but he hasn't written 
either of the words since he had the mix-up with Henry 
Page. He thinks them a lot, hovv^ever ; thinks that anent 
is unsweet, and that both you and Henry Page, Col. Fair- 
brother, have unnice, cranky ideas about "word-sling- 
ing," to borrow a term that you exercise in your sub- 
limest peroration. But man's a sensitive thing, after 
all, and he can be broken from using any words except 
sweet words. The Old Man says that once the New 
Orleans Times-Democrat referred to something and 
then added that it was up to the Charlotte Observer to 
say: "You ought to be ashamed of yourself." It oc- 
curred to him then that nearly all his journalistic hfe 
he had been writing at one time and another, "You 
ought to be ashamed of yourself" — ^jestfully, of course. 
His pet phrase, just like unnice and unsweet, is held in 
abeyance these days. But you are incorrigible. Colonel 
Fairbrother. If it has occurred to your subtle mind 
that anent is a nice, poetical word, you'll go on trying 
to create lockjaw with it for the balance of your days. 
Nothing short of a club could ever persuade you from 
riding your own outlandish, devilish words. 
[201] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The Inex- If a strong, clear-headed man were to speak accord- 
pressiDle -^^g ^^ ^^^q heart that is in him — tell the throbbing his- 
tory of a soul — the world would stop and hsten. When 
he comes to paint the sorrow of death he must not expose 
his own anguish as he stood at the bier, but he delves 
into his imagination for another man, and pictures, 
most often, a suffering that is not real. And who, in 
writing a love story, would dare display the brooding 
sweetness of a personal experience ? The greatest writ- 
ers are those who understand the things about them 
and can tell these things. But the simple inner history 
— or confession — of any one of half the people one 
knows might be more sensational than all the books 
ever written. 

* * * 

As the jester jests, a man in the club upstairs is play- 
ing the Intermezzo on a muffled piano, and the notes 
steal down to mock laughter. Music and the mood stay 
the hand that would be facetious. Pierrot was un- 
mirthful awhile. There's no need, or scant wish, in the 
telling, but . . . music — certain tender notes — clutch 
and hold one. There's a tremulousness of strength, a 
fullness, a touch of completeness — indescribable. And 
words are helpless, hopeless. To write them as one felt 
— ay, it is impossible. To feel, to be moved till there's 
a gulp in the throat, to be swayed by an emotion till Ufe 
is quickened to the utmost and to be able to write then 
— then. . . . No. 'Tis not given to do. So is pathos. 

* * * 

Often a newspaper cannot touch more than the sur- 
face Ufe, and books handle vital personal episodes only 
[ 202] 



IDEALS OF WRITING AND SPEAKING 

by holding up puppets to play with. The only thing The Inex- 
really worth while studying is a living human being who P'^^^^^'*^^ 
sins, or suffers, or exults, or loves, or is disgraced, or 
perishes — all in our sight or within our knowledge. All 
we see or think about, more than all we know we speak 
about, and then we may write about only that which is 
too uninteresting to talk about, or too notorious for si- 
lence. The thought has passed beyond things scanda- 
lous, ana considers the thousand and one fascinating 
little human incidents that occur in the daily life, and 
must be told in lip service and not by a pen. They are 
ever seeable to a newspaper man, but for use in his 
craft they are ever denied him. He stands in the dry- 
as-dust path or rut and must take the things that come, 
while his heart aches to revel in the near-by field which 
is filled with people and a prattle that is not great, but 
humanly intimate, and strong enough to make all man- 
kind stop and listen. The writer would like to write 
one book — not a sociological or historical novel, but a 
book that revealed the naked, inner truth in the life 
and hving of a man or woman — almost any man or 
woman, and if he could do this honestly and accurately 
he would be content, knowing that he had done a deed 
that was new under the sun. Do you understand the 
fierce temptation to write with gloves off — to go behind 
the mocking outwardness and paint a picture in warm, 
soft colors that would betray the secret soul of child- 
hood, the weakness and the strength of youth's passion, 
the sweetness and pitifulness of old age, the mask of hyp- 
ocrisy, and faces, not as one pretends to see them, but as 

one really sees them ? But the want is useless, for 

[203] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The Inex- A man up in the club is playing Gottschalk's "Last 
pressible jjQpg^" and the music is bothersome to another man 
who is trying to write nonsense. The man in the club 
is operating a Cecilian that is tacked on to a piano, and 
he probably has his coat off and is looking no more 
sentimental than a fish, but heard from this distance 
the music is as tender and beautiful as it was intended 
to be. It belongs to the kind of music that makes one 
think things that he can't write about, or it creates a 
misty, dreamy realm that is filled with wet violets and 
a certain kind of eyes. A curse on the lameness of a 
pen! A man is forever wanting to write about things 
that he doesn't want to write about, or else he is palsied 
in his efforts to deduce interest from practical things. 
To write one paragraph on a level with the simple spirit 
of that music — to stand under the heavens and speak 
fitting majesty in a sentence — to describe the look on a 
mother's face as she touches a nesthng infant. . . . Aye, 
the impossible is asked ! The big, surging things in us 
are dumb. Every hving man has been glorified by 
something that stood for inspiration — by some leap of 
blood that quickened him to the fulness of hving and 
appreciation — and silenced him. Oh, the fretting is 
idle. Nordica sang and everybody said 'twas beauti- 
ful. How beautiful — the effect of the song ? And there 
was silence while eyes glowed feverishly. Baffled? 
That's it. The paper said the song was beautiful. So! 
Miss Pansy Blossom, who is coming over here next 
week to visit Miss Priscilla Smith, is also beautiful, 
they say. The fooUsh idea of trying to say anything 
with words! 

[204] 



IDEALS OF WRITING AND SPEAKING 

The telling of this little incident is additional proof Art of Story 
to the writer that the effect of some funny situations ® "^^ 
cannot be conveyed in words. Words are bleak, 
unmeaning things at times. A little while ago a 
man came to this ofhce and he was laughing so he 
could hardly speak. Eventually he said between 
hysterics : 

"Funniest thing I ever heard happened down yonder 
to-night. Oh, it's too good to keep, and it will make 
the best newspaper story in the world." 

"What is it?" 

"As soon as I can get my breath I'll write it for you," 
he repHed. 

After a while he wiped the laughter-tears from his 
eyes, reached for some paper, sharpened a pencil as he 
tittered, and began to write. He wrote a line or two on 
half a dozen sheets of paper and crumpled 'em up and 
chucked 'em in the waste basket. Sharpening his pen- 
cil again, he scrawled a couple of lines, and then rested 
his head on his hand and thoughtfully shaded the let- 
ters he had already made. The gradual change in his 
expression was interesting. At first his face beamed, 
then he condescended to smile only occasionally, and 
finally he was quite serious. An hour passed and he 
sat there with his eyes sort of protruding and cold per- 
spiration on his forehead. The muse wouldn't work. 
He had not written half a page, but his fingers were 
gripped as if he suffered from paralysis. The humor 
simply refused to leak onto the paper. The mental 
strain grew terrible to witness. Finally he reached for 
his hat, walked to the door, and in parting said : 
[205] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

"Say, the darned thing is not half as funny as I 
thought it was." 
The joke was never told. 

* * * 

"Commend me to a man who can tell a story with- 
out superfluous words or gestures," remarked a clever 
Charlotte man. "The telling of nine stories out of ten 
is hurt by wild waving of hands and arms or the inter- 
jection of words that are top- weights for the tale. Dr. 
Buttrick, the secretary of the General Educational 
Board, is the first exception to the rule that I have met 
in a long time. I saw him at the banquet the other 
night lay his hand on his fork, and, speaking for ten 
minutes, he never made a movement or grimace. The 
simple selection and pronunciation of his words at- 
tracted and held the attention of everybody around him. 
This was the perfection of story telling — an art that is 
almost forgotten." 

Modern How a phrase rings and throws the mind off at a tan- 
Oratory ggj^i-^ -y^g^g jj- ^Q^ Ingersoll who, in speaking of his 
brother's death, said : 

"He has gone into the night — into the Hght." 

What antithesis ! It is simple Saxon sayings like this 

that live. Words that are the vernacular of the people 

show the strength and the polish of the greatest minds. 

If "damn" had three syllables mankind wouldn't swear. 

Modern oratory searches for ideas after high words 

and euphony — is a clumsily arranged tale told by sound 

and gestures. Cicero in his speech against Cataline, 

and Mr. Walter Page in his address here the other night 

[206] 



IDEALS OF WRITING AND SPEAKING 

before the educational conference, expressed their 
meaning in clear, incisive words, but a majority of other 
speakers have been confusing the seven hills of Rome 
with any subject at issue. Twentieth-century audiences 
are as badly persecuted as the early Christians. 

Down in the legislative halls in Raleigh they're still Bad Taste 
talking about Senator Vance. Too much praise may 
not be said of that statesman and simple gentleman, 
but there is something unnice in the way his name is in- 
voked on the smallest pretext. In many legislatures 
it has been customary for orators, no matter whether 
they wished a no-fence law or a bill for the relief of a 
crossroads, to get up and violently swear, honestly and 
by patriotism, by the memory of that immortal leader. 
The name of Vance, dragged into a speech as a part of 
personal eulogy, and flaunted in shocking bad taste, is 
heard too often on the poHtical stumps in all parts of this 
State. Oh, this screaming, nauseous sentiment that 
reeks with prate of deity, or a father's grave, or the pro- 
fane use of the name of a dead leader like Vance, whose 
fine scorn would have blasted such methods ! 

The world is full of preachers who are splendidly Simplicity 
educated and who get about seven hundred dollars a puip^^ 
year for preaching. They are consecrated men who 
pore over the Scripture and use long Greek and He- 
brew quotations with the greatest ease and constancy. 
As they grow older they increase in learning, but their 
salary remains about the same. A minister like Dr. 
Vance, of Newark, N. J., who gets six thousand dollars 
[207] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

a year, is worth studying. What do they pay him all 
that money for ? Why does he command so much more 
wages than nine-tenths of the other ministers? This 
thought was in the mind of one person, at least, who 
listened to Dr. Vance last night at the Second Presby- 
terian church. Dr. Vance's personality is pleasant 
enough, but he is not particularly magnetic. He has an 
ordinary voice. He preaches less than half an hour. 
Yet when he concludes a sermon one understands, 
without wonderment, why he commands a big price. 
He is unusual because he is perfectly simple. He in- 
dulges in no flowers, no hazy metaphysical language. 
He has a thing to say and he says it in Anglo-Saxon. 
He indulges in no hackneyed rhetorical climaxes. He 
is as plain as an old shoe; and his eloquence is in his 
earnestness. Any child can understand him, it was 
said, of course. His talk has the rhetorical sound of 
Robinson Crusoe in words of one syllable. His secret 
is nothing else but simpHcity ; and his experience ought 
to be an invaluable lesson to all those who speak for good 
effect or pay. 

Affectation Pahst and lahst and cahn't are the birthright of the 
"^ P^^*^ Britishers, Bostonians and a few Virginians, but are to 
be marked as boomerangs when handled by those of 
alien breed. Speech and refined table manners are the 
essentials by which all men are judged. In the pride of 
his social heart one may consistently wear an elegant 
oyster harpoon as a watch guard, but when he learns to 
dahnce at adult age he borrows trouble which he can- 
not conceal. The theft of the longish " a " seems to be the 
[208] 



IDEALS OF WRITING AND SPEAKING 

peculiar prerogative of young women, who usually say 
" i-ther " and " nee-ther." It is the construction of a pit- 
fall to introduce the broad a into fair speech — such being 
rare by a token of pity. And to hamper an I-have-saw 
and he-taken lingo with a penchant for dahncing is a 
thing to make the gods weep bitterly. Now, it was only 
a little while ago at a local card party that The Lady, 
with a graceful wave of her willowy neck, said : 

"Cahn't-eu see that it was your lahst chawnce and 
you orter tuck the trick?" 

Dr. J. William Jones, chaplain general of the United Stump- 
Confederate Veterans, who is to lecture at the Presby- t^g'^LoM ^^ 
terian College auditorium, in this city, next Thursday 
night, on "Stonewall Jackson as a Soldier," will receive 
a warm welcome here. Before an immense audience 
in Charlotte, several weeks ago. Dr. Jones spoke of 
"The Christian Character of Jackson," and, holding 
close to his theme, he was most impressive and interest- 
ing. After dwelUng at length on the fervor and sim- 
pHcity of Jackson's prayers. Dr. Jones said : 

" Jackson made no stump-speeches to the Lord," 
And every person in the vast audience knew exactly 
what the speaker meant. What a difference there is be- 
tween the quiet earnestness of the old-time man of God 
and the wordy bill of particulars that is so frequently 
heard in sophomoric and classic effusions! It must be 
no easy thing to learn to pray in pubKc, but the glibness 
and the combinations of high-sounding phrases that 
come with practice are sometimes harder — for the con- 
gregation. 

14 [ 209 ] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Stump- Stump-speaking in prayer is rather more intolerable 
^^^^'^ord ^^^^ ^^^ absurdity that comes from ignorance or con- 
fusion. The laugh-provoking qualities of some prayers 
are admitted even by the best of ministers, who would 
fail to find mirth in the utterance of the fashionable 
Boston clergyman of whom it was said "he offered up 
the most eloquent prayer that was ever addressed to a 
Boston audience," but would be irresistibly amused at 
the stumbhng, ludicrous petition of an honest, Chris- 
tian soul. The declaration of the gentleman who was 
unable to stop the approach of the bear by prayer has 
record in profane history, but stories funnier than this 
and strictly within prayer-meeting limits may be told by 
almost every minister. Squire Calton Giles, of Burke 
County, sometime high church officer and local exhorter, 
requested merciful consideration for a good brother 
who lived two miles up the river on the Walton place 
close to the fish trap. He was always that specific. His 
pastor kept smile from his face ; petitioned without ref- 
erence to the fish trap and in rhetorical, flowery phrase 
that the congregation, at least, had to take on trust. 
The point to this dissertation — if point be allowed by 
courtesy — is directed, in a measure, at a clergyman in 
this city, who told gleefully of the break of a church offi- 
cer in a prayer meeting, and yet the same preacher on 
the following Sunday night, used, in a brief petition, 
the words "circumambient," "iridescent" and "cor- 
ollary." Which the Boston audience would have ap- 
preciated soberly. 

But stump-speaking be barred 

[210] 



CHAPTER XIII 

MUSIC AND DRAMA 

Except in " Melisse," which was played in three night " Melisse " 
stands in Morganton and other small towns in the west- j^oreanton 
ern part of the State fifteen or twenty years ago, never 
was such a histrionic success. Home talent in Morgan- 
ton had been parading dukes and duchesses in ances- 
tral wedding garments for many moons, but no real, 
live theatrical company had appeared in the hamlet 
since Mr. Wister Tate was mayor. Which was a long 
time. The players did about on the town hall stage be- 
hind a red curtain, which was worked on a big twine 
string. Their scenery looked like pictures in the bar- 
ber shop, but they played a play that thrilled the entire 
population. It was related that Mr. John Happoldt, 
who had been to New York, had said that "Melisse" 
was as fine as anything he had ever seen there, and 
everybody frowned at Mr. Zach Corpening, who had 
been to New Orleans and who yawned and left the 
house during the first act. The next day people gath- 
ered in groups on the streets and rehearsed, with pan- 
tomime effect, the beautiful uttera,nces of MeUsse and 
her cowboy lover. The little town hall was transformed 
to a place beautiful, and when the cowboy stood full 
under the large kerosene lamp and drew two pistols and 
shouted at the top of his voice, "I will avenge her with 

[211] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

me life," or something like that, everybody just riz 
right up and made the welkin ring. "Mehsse" marked 
the first injection of modern dramatic art into the vil- 
lage, and after that nobody was particularly interested 
when somebody that everybody knew wore a familiar 
suit of Sunday clothes and cried, "Wilt be mine. Lady 
Pauline?" The cowboy marked an epoch. MeHsse 
'nspired fevered dreams. The curtain had disclosed a 
new world. Youth saw blissfully and found no flaw. 
Dear, dear Melisse! 

* * * 

The theme is not for fun-making. There is no happi- 
ness in learning to know how to criticise. ' Tis a fault that 
comes with age. It must come by a token of weariness. 
A man looks back at his childhood, remembers what the 
child's eyes saw, and, maybe, laughs at the remem- 
brance, and yet he sighs for the rare pleasure that was 
before disillusionment came. "Manhood," some one 
said, "is but the dusty wareroom where are stored life's 
broken dreams." It isn't that bad, but it teaches a 
man too much knowledge that is not sweet, while never 
fully guarding him against the errors of inexperience. 
To have kept the simple, light heart that found peace 
and enjoyment in the littlest things — aye, that would 
be something. One should weep now over Melisse and 
her wondrous cowboy. Who found content after he 
was introduced to the real Santa Claus ? 

The Theatre Charlotte theatre-goers have demonstrated the fact 
Public ^^^^ ^^^y ^^^^ P^^ ^P ^^y a-niount of money to see a good 
show, but they will not patronize a poor performance 
[212] 



MUSIC AND DRAMA 

unless they are deceived into thinking it is good. The The Theatre 
three star attractions that played here last week made p^jjiig^ 
almost as much money in Charlotte as they made in 
towns like Atlanta and Richmond, which are several 
times larger than this city ; and all other first-class shows 
that have been here this season have had flattering au- 
diences. The theatrical criterion here is high, though 
not exacting. It is almost a proverb to say that when 
Charlotte people leave home they go to New York; and 
this is mentioned to indicate that there is here a preva- 
lent, though not overweening, knowledge of what is 
worth while in the play-acting world. Poor plays are 
treated mercilessly here, and the newspaper that treats 
them mercifully is apt to be mocked by its patrons or 
friends. Everybody looks uncritically upon the ten, 
twenty and thirty cent productions, but beyond that — 
when the orchestra seats stand at $1.50 — there is a keen- 
eyed demand that the people on the stage act up to 
their pretensions, and if they don't they get a roast that 
lives for a long time and a long ways. A bum show 
makes a very sad mistake in coming here. 
* * * 

The only trouble with the Gordon-Shay Company is 
that it tried to do what it couldn't do and will never be 
able to do. Apart from the Calve and Melba contin- 
gent, thousands try to sing grand opera, but the indi- 
vidual can count the successes that he has witnessed on 
the fingers of one hand. They are very seldom seen 
here, though, by a grim token, a new voice periodically 
walks on the stage in evening clothes and marks failure 
in striving for unattainable notes. This refers to the 
[213I 



IDLE COMMENTS 

ultra-classical music — to the bird that can't sing and 
will try to sing beyond its power or training. This side 
of the goal fixed by a few Grand Artists there is such a 
beautiful world of music and melody, and why is it that 
the people who can play in it prettily so often spoil 
themselves and the pleasure of others by overstepping 
bounds and mocking an art that punishes all mockery 
so cruelly? 

A Battle There was a battle royal last night between the Ital- 
^^^ ian with his street piano and the Rentfrow Company's 
band. 

The Italian came here six or seven days ago and had 
the run of the place undisturbed for several days. At all 
hours of the day he could be heard grinding out music, 
while the little green bird in the cage at the top of his 
piano did a lucrative business in telling fortunes. The 
curious gave the bird's master ten cents, and then the 
bird selected, with its bill, yellow and red pamphlet 
forecasts, which informed a man that he would have a 
severe experience but he would overcome it and live 
happily to the age of seventy; and a woman that she 
must not be downhearted if her first marriage resulted 
unsatisfactorily — that she would outHve it and make 
others. 

The Italian was out of town Monday and in his ab- 
sence the Rentfrow Company, with its band, arrived. 
The ItaHan did the usual amount of business yesterday 
morning and evening, without the first sound of com- 
petition; but as the piano paused in front of the Cen- 
tral Hotel last night about eight o'clock and unwound 
[214] 



MUSIC AND DRAMA 

the strains of "The Holy City," there was a sudden A Battle 
rude, discordant jar as the band stepped in front of the *^°y^ 
opera house a block away and began to enHven the at- 
mosphere with a rag-time tune. The trick bird woke up 
and gasped in astonishment. The Roman muttered 
"Can these things be?" and ordered force pressure on 
"The Holy City." But the rag-time became louder and 
Kvelier, and the adherents of the musical Roman began 
to gradually desert him for coon-song airs. The Httle 
green bird grew greener with rage. 

The gentleman from Italy recognized that his battery 
was firing too slowly and that he must charge in the face 
of the rapid-fire brass guns. His courage rose, and, 
with his eye in fine frenzy rolling, he got into the shafts 
of the rolHng box and charged down the street to fight 
a rear-guard action. Half a block down he stopped, 
unlimbered, caught the revolving crank, and fired into 
the enemy's broadsides with heavy bars of "The Geor- 
gia Camp-meeting." There was a momentary demor- 
alization among the brass horns, but they rallied and 
replied with deadly clog-dance artillery. The notes met 
in mid-air and screamed and wrestled and fell all over 
the shop ; and the Httle green bird gave a throaty chir- 
rup of excitement. 

The crowd paused, uncertain, and the battle was in 
doubt. The Rentfrow ammunition was exhausted for 
a minute, and the wanderer from the ItaUan coast once 
more slipped the cog to "The Holy City" — a war 
hymn in slow time. Then the band found another coon 
song which almost submerged the pious craft. Yet 
once more Italian bravery asserted itself, and, travelling 
[215] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

at full speed, the piano made a last stand in front of the 
Buford. Though greatly harassed and suffering not a 
little, Saracinesca had one yery dangerous shot in his 
locker. As the little green bird indulged in difficult so- 
prano effects he steered his vessel until he could rake 
the enemy fore and aft and then his guns belched forth 
"The Blue and the Gray." The effect was tremendous 
and there was tumult about. The crowd began to rally 
around little Italy ; and Mr. H. C. Eccles waved his hat 
and shouted ifi the purest French: "Beyond the Alps 
lies Italy," and "The Old Guard dies, but never sur- 
renders." 

And the superiority of Yankee Doodle and Dixie 
over the brass battery's "CHney" was so manifest that 
the struggle was all but over, when, in an unfortunate 
moment, Pietro Ghisleri lost a cog and played a made- 
in- Germany air that was all beer and skittles, while the 
Rentfrows, quick to see an advantage, came back with 
a Cuban love song that had "Mother" in it. This 
ended the battle. Gambietta retired in good order, but 
he retired nevertheless. And the little green bird fainted 
dead away. 

Joseph The town will give Mr. Joseph Jefferson a royal wel- 
je erson ^q^^^ when he comes here next month to play "The Ri- 
vals." Charlotte knows him only as Rip Van Winkle, 
and will hardly lose sight of him as Rip Van Winkle no 
matter how great he may be in "The Rivals." As Rip 
he wins hearts and a loyalty that he cannot lose. He is 
many things — an artist, a millionaire, and an actor with 
versatile talent, yet the world remembers him first and 
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MUSIC AND DRAMA 

last and best as the droll man who was fond of children Joseph 
and injected humor into sadness. One may not forget •'^ ^^^°^ 
the consummate art of Joseph Jefferson. There is 
none other like him — not one. He is the one to make 
the clutch come to the throat of a strong man. How 
curiously he blends humor and sadness — and without 
effort. The character of Rip Van Winkle cannot stand 
the test of analysis. He was too far from seriousness, 
too prone to deceit. As his wife loved him and wept 
over him and forgave him, he tricked her with a leer 
and shamed her trusting womanhood. Yet sympathy 
even here is for the man. Why is he so lovable ? Until 
he was a very old, enfeebled man he showed no depth of 
feehng, no clearly admirable quahty save just that love 
for children. It is the strange genius of Jefferson that 
appeals. By a gesture or an expression he touches the 
wellsprings of mirth and tears. He puzzles. One 
could feel almost like challenging his right to evoke 
emotion on such sHght pretext. Opinions differ; but 
in the mind of the writer Jefferson is strongest in both 
humor and pathos just after he had climbed the moun- 
tain and found himself surrounded by sturdy Dutch 
ghosts who carried kegs. Here was pathos infinite. 
How ? — why ? There is no answer. That gaunt figure, 
that expressive face changed to seriousness, that half 
frightened effort to be courteous and at ease. ... It is 
a simple scene, and yet no man who has seen it will ever 
forget. He laughs deep in the heart of him and yet 
could almost weep for memory's sake. . . . How does 
Jefferson do it ? It is the truest humor, the kind that is 
breathed from the heart with a sigh. There is nothing 
[217] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

like the humor and pathos of Joseph Jefferson. You 
have seen a woman, moved to the depths, laugh softly 
while her eyes were wet. . . . 'Tis something like that. 

Richard Mr. Richard Mansfield and an excellent supporting 
Mansfield company presented "Julius Caesar" at the Academy of 
Music last night, and pleased the largest theatrical au- 
dience that has ever been seen in this city. 

For more than four hours the play held the close at- 
tention of the audience, yet interest never waned and 
applause was continuous. Though at the end of the 
performance disparaging remarks were made by a few 
captious critics, the general sentiment of the audience 
was unmistakable. The play and the players had won 
immense favor. 

Mr. Mansfield was a stranger here, though a large 
proportion of Charlotte people had seen him abroad in 
other and lighter plays, and waited with curiosity the 
sterner work that is involved in his interpretation of the 
character of Brutus. Because of the nature of the play 
Mr. Mansfield won commendation only gradually. In 
the first act he figures not largely; in the second act he 
is not at his best ; but in the last four acts his impersona- 
tion of Brutus was the mainspring of the play, and at 
times he was superb in the understanding art that must 
live on genius. 

The correctness of his interpretation of the character 
of Brutus may be questioned, but it was fascinating. 
Brutus, portrayed by Mr. Mansfield, was curiously 
quiet and morose in disposition. Before the assassina- 
tion of Caesar, Brutus wore a haunted, wretched look, as 
[218] 



MUSIC AND DRAMA 

if he was a victim of remorse or was oppressed with hor- Richard 
rible stage fright. He seemed to pose occasionally, space, ^^s"®^** 
and most of his strongest utterances were delivered in a 
tense, low voice. Inwardly he suffered the agonies of 
the damned. Outwardly, he was the soul of quietude; 
except in certain moments when the actor, starthng one 
with the rapidity of the change in his demeanor, became 
a creature of fire and passion. 

Mr. Mansfield made the life of Brutus climatical in a 
mournful key. Brutus, the noblest Roman of them all, 
was accursed by a deed committed through a sense of 
duty; he never tasted happiness; and his mournful- 
ness gave to his Ufe a certain majestic simplicity and 
resignation that were not lost even in the memorable 
quarrel with Cassius, or in the ardor of battle. While 
other men — other conspirators — talked and planned, 
Brutus stood near by, alone, silent if he might be; 
brooding with a far-away look on his face. 
* * * 

Mr. Mansfield's conception showed a Brutus who 
was to be admired or pitied, but not liked; and there- 
fore Mr. Mansfield's success in the character is due to 
art and art alone. Without effort, or by no high-sound- 
ing words, he made himself the central figure on the 
stage. He seemed to pose occasionally, for, unavoid- 
ably, there was posing in the life of Brutus; but it was 
the simple reahsm of Mr. Mansfield's part that made 
it frequently great, and interesting at all times. As an 
orator or in other incidents of the forum scene, or as a 
warrior, he was less attractive than in showing bare hu- 
man touches: the brief scene with Portia; the weari- 
[219] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Richard ness and suffering in his tent ; the love for Cassius and 
Mansfield poj-^-jg^ expressed in a look or a gesture ; or the terror in 
the ghost scene — Mr. Mansfield's personality was 
there. One marked it in that unforgettably clean and 
crisp enunciation, in the glare of his odd eyes and in the 
characteristic tilting of his chin; but if one did not for- 
get Mansfield he yet saw Brutus as a vital being whose 
honor was supreme and whose suffering was so keen 
that he looked gladly on death. 

Mr. Mansfield's support was well-nigh perfect — in 
keeping with his reputation for always having a well- 
balanced company. Mr. Arthur Forrest, in the always 
popular part of Marc Antony, looked and acted his part 
in a manner that never failed to provoke prolonged ap- 
plause. He is a big fellow with an expressive counte- 
nance and a voice that, he handles remarkably well; 
and the adroit use of this same voice in the burial scene 
was very clever indeed. Rivalling Mr. Forrest for hon- 
ors was Mr. Paulding as Cassius, a part that he sus- 
tained wonderfully well. Between these two men and 
Mr. Mansfield or other leading members of the com- 
pany there was none of the difference in ability that so 
often mars a production. The entire supporting com- 
pany did work that was in keeping with the pace set by 
Mr. Mansfield. Mr. Arthur Greenaway was a very 
tired and listless Caesar, but his resemblance to the sup- 
posed visage of the distinguished Roman would have 
caused one to overlook faults that were not at all 
serious. 

Only two women took leading parts: Miss Maude 
Hoffman as Calphurnia and Miss Dorothy Hammond 
[ 220] 



MUSIC AND DRAMA 

as Portia — ^two characters that were cleverly and grace- 
fully portrayed. 

The scenery was magnificent — a typical Mansfield 
production. No more than that need be said in praise. 
All the accessories or furnishings of the stage showed 
the highest point of artistic discrimination; and it may 
be added that the local Roman recruits who enlisted 
here did their parts well and added proper color to the 
stirring mob scenes in the play. 

As has been indicated, the play was received with 
every evidence of great liking. Numerous times Mr. 
Mansfield was interrupted in his utterances by applause 
that was general and spontaneous. He resisted even 
the most prolonged efforts to make him respond to a 
curtain call. Mr. Forrest, who was a universal favorite, 
was the only actor who consented to come before the 
curtain and make his bow. 

The most remarkable grand opera voice that the A Chinese 
writer ever heard was in the head of a heathen. 'Twas d"^^ 
in Shanghai, and a young swell among the Chinese said 
he knew about a famous sing-song girl from Soochow 
who was appearing in one of the native theatres and 
attracting no end of attention. He invited the writer to 
go around and hear the vocalizing. The prima donna 
appeared in a place that was packed with Chinese, who 
showed as much appreciation as can be given by a stolid 
and unemotional people. Her small form was clothed 
in the richest silks ; her hair reeked with cocoanut oil 
and glistened with green jade things and diamonds; 
her lips were painted to a brilliant red and her feet were 
[221] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

compressed to the size of an infant's. In her hand she 
held a one-string guitar-sort of an arrangement, and as 
she sang she played an accompaniment. And it is a 
truth that from the time that little female opened her 
mouth to sing until she was too exhausted to chirp she 
held the same weird, high note that provokes fulsome 
praise from a metropolitan audience. But the high note 
was all she had in her repertoire; she took it from the 
jump and couldn't have come under it if she had tried. 
In other words, she, a heathen — just like lots of heathen 
— found naturally a thing that civihzation in its highest 
art seeks for incessantly and seldom obtains. 

Music at And, by the sacred name of St. Cecilia, the thing 
Twiig t (joesn't seem right. Science, modern improvements 
and American ingenuity play false economics with art. 
The woman and the piano are the acme of music, and 
all the claptrap arrangements can't cheapen the ideal. 
Even the man who must resist an impulse to join the 
children who dance to the sound of the street organ will 
admit that the excessive amount of music-by-machin- 
ery has a tendency to keep the woman away from the 
piano oftener than in former days, yet he and the world 
that loves music would not have it so. The old-fash- 
ioned way is the best. Grand Opera, Duss, Creatore — 
they have become essentials, but the music that a man 
reverences comes from the woman and the piano. There 
is memory of twilight above the half-bowed head; a 
feminine outline in clean, fresh white; a sure, easy, 
gentle touch, and then, maybe, a voice, low and full, 
steals out of the darkened room. This is the music 

[ 222 ] 



MUSIC AND DRAMA 

that creeps into one's soul and lingers there for- 
ever. 

The greatest ovation that has ever been tendered to A Great 
any one in the Academy of Music was given last night to Event 
Madame Nordica. 

If Madame Nordica had not been in the city, then 
Monsieur Edouard de Reszke would have been the re- 
cipient of this superlative testimonial of liking; and the 
welcome that was showered upon Mr, John S. Duss 
and the Metropolitan Opera House orchestra was as 
spontaneous and almost as warm as the applause that 
so persistently followed the two great artists. 

The concert last night was the chiefest event of artistic 
character in the life of the community. The playhouse 
was not so crowded as it has been on one or two occa- 
sions, but the great majority of the seats were taken by 
an audience that represented the culture and intelligence 
of the best element of North Carolinians. In the assem- 
bly were visitors from all parts of the State, and the en- 
semble as it was seen from the stage was such as to 
cause both Madame Nordica and Monsieur de Reszke 
to express delight at their reception here and to say that 
they had never found readier appreciation in any audi- 
ence in any part of the world. "^I responded to two en- 
cores," declared Madame Nordica, who usually does 
not respond to more than one call from an audience, 
"because I wished to do so. I liked the atmosphere of 
sympathy that was created by these people." 

For half an hour before the large audience had fully 
gathered the seventy-five performers of Duss — a well- 
[223] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

A Great groomed, fine-looking body of men — sat on a stage, un- 
Event concealed by curtain, and exchanged glances with the 
spectators. 

At 8:30 o'clock the opening of the concert was an- 
nounced by the appearance of John S, Duss — this Duss, 
who has made fame and fortune and has so consistently 
pleased discriminating New Yorkers and all other peo- 
ples whom he confronts. Beyond being the embodi- 
ment of grace and ease there is nothing particularly re- 
markable in his appearance. Yet you find yourself 
lazily liking the thoroughness of his bow before he 
mounts his little stand, and after that 

Well, this man does seem to be in a class by himself. 
He poses as no freak, like the agile, acrobatic Creatore 
or others of the Eye-talian school. He appears simply 
as a gentleman in dress clothes, and he impresses one as 
being a man who had gone through all the musical 
schools, had learned all there is to know about music, 
and yet, retaining all his saneness, is perfectly delighted 
to appear in simplicity and exercise his knowledge and 
good taste in bringing unHmited pleasure to everybody. 

Mr. Duss conducts that orchestra — conducts it with 
his body and soul; and it breathes true and fine and 
strong in response to his slightest gesture. Every num- 
ber that was given solely by the orchestra was encored 
and encored, and Duss bowed and bowed and was com- 
placent until further generosity was out of the question. 
An attempt at analytical criticism of Duss's music would 
be absurd. The pieces were there — exquisite. And 
in the hands of Duss they were simpler and better than 
in the hands of any other man in America. 

[224] 



MUSIC AND DRAMA 

Then Madame Nordica came! Of course she was A Great 
superbly dressed. That was an incident. One saw it ^^^^^ 
at a glance and forgot it. This personality was so vital, 
so Hkable. She came not wearing stage habit, but as a 
queenly lady, or, better, a gracious woman. And the 
house seemed to speak to her as with one voice, and 
gave her a greeting that has been given to no other 
stranger that has ever come to this town. 

First she sang not the number on the programme, 
but an aria from II Trovatore. Here the pencil pauses, 
and this poor, lame critic would let his hand be palsied 
before he would endeavor to define the art of Madame 
Nordica with cold, technical words. Technique ! What 
is that ? This woman just sang — sang living, pulsing 
song, and one fresh from her presence swears that she 
sang as no one else can sing. She was as simple as a 
child and as grand as a princess ; and her music stole 
surely into the senses and lingered and helped. God 
has been very good to this lady. 

They showered her with flowers — very many flowers. 
Among the gifts was a small and beautiful plant that 
bore one hundred and fifty pure white roses. And 
again and again the audience begged to be indulged and 
was gratified. There were never more delighted listeners, 
never a woman who seemed to be so glad to please. 

Such cordial relationship was the keynote of the even- 
ing. 'Twas there when Monsieur de Reszke appeared. 
He was almost swept off his feet by the applause that 
was only faint testimonial of the great admiration for 
his big, wondrous voice. He, too, was kindly and ac- 
quiescent to every demand; and the ovation reached 
15 [225] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

intensity when at length the two artists appeared and 
sang together. The evening was one that will live in 
memory. Nordica — de Reszke — Duss! Ah, the 
South is being blessed just now! 

He * * 

The local public will be gratified to learn that the 
concert was a financial success. It would have been 
exceedingly profitable had it not been for the fact that 
an exciting political election which was interesting to 
the greater part of the town unavoidably prevented 
many persons from going to the Academy. 

Nordica One wonders how Nordica will be judged by the 
Lord. He gave her that marvellous voice, but through 
the long years she has worked hard and treasured her 
talent so that she might give pleasure to thousands upon 
ten thousands of people. She has done vast and last- 
ing good. Her music has the beautifullest influence. 
It betters and purifies, somehow. No man with good 
in him can hear that voice without being refined and 
eased. Month after month for a quarter of a century 
and more that voice has been lifting care from tired 
hearts and brightening lives. The best music is like 
unto the sweetness of Christianity; and Nordica has 
had so much of the best to give. At the highest ebb 
man can do no more than please and bless humanity, 
and Nordica has done both. Her private life ? It is all 
right, but suppose it were — anything. The offering of 
that woman at the last might Kft into Paradise a soul 
as black as Egypt's night. 

[226] 



CHAPTER XIV 

REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

The real secret of the greatest happiness consists in Human 
the entertainment and gratification of genuine wants, ^ 

and a curse of hving is in the fact that as one grows 
older his wants decrease in simplicity or ask the im- 
possible. To so live that one may become very hungry 
and then eat; to become heated and exhausted after a 
long walk and then to come to a cool spring, surmounted 
by maidenhair ferns — that is a primitive life that man 
needlessly parts company with. And the power to want 
something intensely, in mental or emotional way, is a 
sign of the fuller living that is marked in few people. 
To be seized with a fierce desire to do a great thing, or 
to want a woman until the heart aches — how much of a 
namby-pamby world understands ? . . . It is this power 
of want that provides the pleasures and sorrows and 
tragedies, and the heart that want leaves is desolate 
and dead. 

Do you know that the httle mean things you say Cattish 
about people do not die? The way this truth is evi- ^°^"s*^ 
denced here would be amusing if it were not so sad. 
The firm, outspoken expression of opinion is always 
tolerable, even if it hurt in condemnation. It is the sly, 
cattish thrusts that are not forgiven. They may not be 
[227] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

big enough for resentment, but they rankle and breed 
bitterness. Everybody knows everybody else — knows 
weakness, at least. Be sure of that. The knowledge 
that we have of one another is one of the ghastliest 
things in all living. Every man assumes the greatest 
risk when he sits in judgment upon another man. He 
is safe and respected only when he does this bravely, 
with an effort to be fair. You, be you man or woman, 
who make a practice of doling out malice in confidential 
utterances — you are marked. This is one of the every- 
day things that everybody knows to be true. Above all 
men, the foolish whisper of evil is most despised. 

The Tiger And some one else has said that the greatest trouble 
in Man g^j^Q^^ sinning is the mad, useless longing to sin all over 
again. This is only discursive quotation. The pleas- 
ure and peace that are not based on self-denial are not 
worth a picayune; and there is no positive basis of hap- 
piness apart from the Christian religion. For this and 
for that a man would like to tilt his chin and stroll hell- 
wards, but there is unrest on the way and the sweetness 
turns bitter as gall. The unhappiness of doing as you 
please and the happiness of doing as you don't please 
are as bothersome to Ben, the orphan boy, who drives 
the donkey, as they are to the fine lady in the frou-frou 
clothes, and the venerable gentleman who leans on his 
cane and looks back on seventy years of toil and fretful- 

ness. 

* * * 

The observant man was talking about these things 
the other day, and he said it was unfair to lay down 
[228I 



REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

rules for general application because some people had 
tigers and some hadn't tigers. By tigers he meant hot, 
impulsive blood — the ardent temperament that is as 
apt to curse as to bless ; an inherited thing that puts up 
a fight during a lifetime. The untigered folk are the 
untempted, serene and patronizing minority who make 
laws for the rest of mankind. They would accept Uto- 
pia as a deserved property, and their certainty of a 
crown in the hereafter is based upon their lack of wish 
to do the deeds that send people to the lower regions. 
They have unhmited satisfaction, but no capacity for 
suffering, and no fun. The observant man said it was 
the tigered people who put their arms around you when 
you wept, and that the other kind didn't understand — 
somehow. He said that the chief est joy in living is to 
conquer the tiger, but that he'd rather be conquered by 
it than to never feel the hard, quick leap of the inner 
breast. 

As a rule, the real students of human nature are the Sympathetic 
men who say little and make no pretensions to sociolog- °^^^ 
ical knowledge. As you wander in the crowd you find, 
now and then, but not often, a man who looks at you 
with clear, seeing eyes, and you feel that he knows you. 
He has the faculty of sizing up a man at a glance ; which 
means that he has inherited a great gift, and has made 
good use of it. He is apt to be the right sort of a man; 
for any one who understands himself and other men 
must have sympathy and charity in his heart. He is apt 
to be a self-contained man who speaks deliberately and 
kindly, and would prefer to listen to the talk of other 
[229] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

people. He knows that weakness in the world is much 
more prevalent than strength, and that it is very hard 
indeed for any one to be strong; and so he condones 
weakness as far as possible and admires strength wher- 
ever he finds it. This is a feeble effort to classify the 
exceptional man who learns to know liis fellows through 
the process of sympathy — and that is the only right 
way to know mankind. Facing such a man the weakest 
person is not terrified, for he knows that the bad is not 
allowed to shroud whatever good there may be, and that 
the inevitable judgment will not be little, or nagging, or 
unreasonable. No, you don't fear the man who knows 
you, but you do fear, and suffer most from, the super- 
cilious person who thinks he knows you, and finds mo- 
tives where you haven't motives — the person who seeks 
for evil and broods over your unguarded moments. 
This man — he moves in legions — ^is so blinded by con- 
ceit that he does not know himself. He is none other 
than the captious critic who is to be met on every street 
corner. His infrequent charity lacks tact, and is not 
helpful because it is not sincere. The other kind of a 
man, who looks deep into human nature, breaks his si- 
lence to speak the charity that keeps the world straight 
and makes life good and sweet. For the knowing of 
human nature exacts charity and kindUness, not as 
virtues, but necessary things. 

Flaws And — make no mistake about this — all your bad 

quaUties are thoroughly known. In this regard no one 

can fool an individual or a community. Your amiable 

disposition and your good motives may be misjudged, 

[230] 



REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

but the child that stays at your elbow for three days 
spots the meanness in you. This is a truth that some 
people seem to learn very late in Hfe, for they are for- 
ever leaving down hurtful gaps by picking flaws in the 
rest of the human herd. When you were very small you 
may have quarrelled with a brother or a sister, with 
whom you had been on good terms for a long time. Do 
you remember how quickly your new enemy turned on 
you with taunts and showed you that you had been 
watched narrowly all the while, that every little dirty 
deed was remembered, every weakness was correctly 
marked, and that sins and weaknesses, thought to be 
hidden, were naked under observant eyes? All your 
life you do not escape from that sort of a game. You 
can rend and tear and analyze. That is your privilege. 
But do not be such a fool as to think you deceive any- 
body about the WTong that is in you ; for the notorious 
knowledge of your faults is a penalty you have to pay 
for living. This is another one of the little just-so things 
that people don't stop to think about often enough. 

The world's mind, as a composite proposition, seems New Year's 
to be a feeble, narrow thing at times. Just now all hu- ^^° ^ ^°°^ 
mor seems to hinge on the man who makes New Year's 
resolutions and breaks them. Puck and Judge, always 
reeking with common ideas and commoner wit, will be 
surcharged with such humor at this season; and the 
other comic papers are printing the same old inane an- 
ecdotes. The hackneyed spluttering of humor is heard 
here; and yet where is the room for laughter? The 
world swears off and tries to do better. It drops back 
[231] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

to old habits. That is tragedy. But it ought to be seri- 
ously and solemnly patted on the back for the little 
spurt. It is something for some men to be decent to 
their wives for three days ; to get sober even for forty- 
eight hours; an annual miracle when some men taste 
unselfishness for an hour; and there is wholesomeness 
even in a faint wish to do better. How foolish and 
young and ineffectual mankind must look in the eyes of 
Heaven? Most men want to be good, and can't be 
. good. The world is full of hope — full, too, of brooding 
sadness that may become intensified by disappoint- 
ment. There's so much pathos in the weak httle 
wishes. And good, too. The most brutal thing that 
was ever written was "The road to hell is paved with 
good intentions." By a token of mercy, a man who 
honestly has good intentions all the way round has no 
business being in hell. 

The Big When the big passions work you never know what 
assions ^^^^ -^ going to do to his fellow man. The story of those 
women being torn and trampled in the Chicago fire is 
really an old story in a way. The normal man cannot 
conceive that he will ever be worked up to the point 
where, through fright, he would crush or slay a woman 
or a child, yet to such pitch of frenzy seeming good men 
are sometimes roused. The thought of what a man may 
do because of fear and may or may not do because of love 
suggests alarming possibilities. In ordinary situations 
a man is schooled and can depend upon himself. He is 
an educated creature who has imbibed creeds and rules 
that spell civilization. But underneath it all there is 
[232] 



REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

the primeval man, the animal thing that is reasonless, The Big 
fierce, and may be cruel beyond expression when, by ^^lons 
some untoward chance, it is provoked into quick, ruth- 
less action. It is ghastly to see anything that is thor- 
oughly frightened. Fear on the face of a beast is both 
pitiful and revolting, but in all living there is scarcely 
anything that is so appalling as a man who is convulsed 
by fear; and the worst fear is that which faces a man un- 
expectedly, gives him no time for preparation, scatters 
his other senses, and puts the look of an animal behind 
human eyes. Such fear has no real likeness to coward- 
ice. It strikes while cowardice whimpers and covers its 
eyes. Neither quality is forgivable, though, Hke the 
character of a fool, it is no more than a badge of an- 
cestry. 

* * * 

The fearful man is most to be feared. Once the writer 
saw a man run amuck. He was a great, powerful East 
Indian. Heat or drink worked on his brain, and he ran 
out of a dive in an eastern port, irresponsible, with treble 
strength, and with an unthinking lust to slay. Even as 
he charged a crowd, with the wild intent of murder, it 
was seen that no bravery was on his face. 'Twas fear. 
The great awakened spirit of fear was in his rolhng eyes 
and governed his powerful limbs. Fear of himself! 
Some devil of fear was leaping in him. It hurled him 
to the supremest ebb of emotion — was the greatest sen- 
sation he could feel. Such things are not good to look 
upon and let live, and so they jammed back into a cor- 
ner and slew him, though even as he fought back with 
the energy of a maddened tiger his face pictured the 
[233] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The Big fear that tore at his vitals and came out to stamp horror 
Passions ^^ ^ ^^^^ ^j^^^ ^^^ ^g^^_ 

* * * 

There is another kind of fear that is also unforgiva- 
ble. Years ago the writer read an odd little story and 
somehow he has never forgotten it. A man and a 
woman were out driving. They were engaged. Both 
were all they should have been. So much was told by 
suggestion. The horses, big black fellows, ran away. 
Faster and faster they went, and death or great bodily 
harm seemed inevitable. The man thought only of the 
woman. He thought rapidly, sensitively. He saw in 
imagination a crash, saw the woman dragged under the 
wheels of the vehicle and mutilated. . . . He would 
have leaned over and seized her with violent, tender 
strength and Hfted her out of danger. As the spasm of 
fear struck him he leaped from the buggy. A second 
later he would have surrendered his soul if he could 
have undone his act. His fear for the woman had gov- 
erned him. Yet he had jumped. A httle further on 
there was a colhsion, and the woman was thrown out 
and only sUghtly injured. She arose and faced the man. 
There was nothing to say, or rather everything was said 
in a look. She, by some intuition, understood him per- 
fectly; did not misjudge his motive. He knew she un- 
derstood. But he had jumped. 'Twas wearisome — 
that knowledge, but neither could ever forget. That 
was the end. The story :s fruitful with ideas. So many 
people jump; or lose happiness or reputation by the 
action of a second. When the big sleeping things awake, 
what then? . . . God knows. 
[234] 



REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

While loitering in an old churchyard in Cheraw, S. C, Reflections 
a few days ago, Mr. J. F. Ware, of this city, found a churchyard 
tomb that is evidently very old, though it bears no date. 
On the broad marble slab at the top is this inscription: 

" My name — my country — what are they to thee ? 
What — whether high or low my pedigree ? 
Perhaps I far surpassed all other men. 
Perhaps I fell below them all — what then ? 
Sufl&ce it, stranger, that thou seest a tomb. 
Thou know'st its use; it hides no matter whom." 

* * * 

One would like to have known the man who wrote 
the verse. There is in the words the easy, sarcastic 
challenge of a man who has lived life his own way and 
is satisfied to go down at the end in gaunt solitude, 
leaving only a taunt for the world behind that would 
have disturbed his privacy in looking for a lying epitaph. 
Maybe he had both found and lost happiness. Maybe 
he had tasted pleasure to its depths; maybe he had 
sinned and blundered and suffered and had dabbled in 
all the little human things that eat away the joy of life. 
So! Let it pass at that. He would be shielded in his 
shroud; obliterated; forgotten eternally. Strange yet 
understandable pride! Tombstones — some tombstones 
— grow hoary with age in spelling a hideous lie — scream- 
ing virtues above dry bones that cannot escape the 
mockery. This man wanted his tomb to say nothing 
except to rebuke curiosity. Here lies a dead man! He 
has played out the game — how or when it is none of your 
affair. There was a brief tilt with Fate, and when 
Death came he saw only one last inscrutable smile and 
[235] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Reflections a slight shrug of the shoulders. The man-thing, blown 
Churchyard ^° ^^^^ from feeble clay, had played his part, not ser- 
vilely or in fear of the little frowning gods created here 
below, and he would go back to dust and stay as dust 
under the canopy where human breath flutters but little 
longer than the daisies grow. 

* * * 

The question has been asked. Would you, if you were 
allowed to do so, live your life all over again? The 
query calls forth profitless thought, but would you? 
Would you be wilHng or glad to start at the beginning 
and go through — everything again? Think! Look 
back, count pleasure and grief, peace and unrest. Does 
it, as a whole, seem good and sweet to you ? Would you 
consent to take up the sorrow for the sake of the hap- 
piness that came to you ? If you say yes, then you may 
be one of two kinds of people — a fine healthy animal 
who loves the memory of basking in the sunshine, or a 
person whose senses were strung taut in the keenness 
of living and yet, seeing both the lights and the shadows, 
is not afraid or ashamed. There is a third element 
which need not be considered. In this there be those 
who look back hopelessly . . . here a restless majority 
who cling to the future as the only salvation in a mael- 
strom — as against loss irretrievable. 'Tis a pleasant 
pastime to speculate about the quality of hell that 
awaits the other man — and easier, rather, than to gaze 
into the nice, yawning little hell that we may have 
builded right here on our own account. Probably you'd 
better not start to thinking on this subject. 
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REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

"Whiskey drinking," said the old barkeeper, "is the A 
curse of the world, but men will drink so long as men yfew^^ ^ 
are men. Since I have been passing drinks across the 
counter I have seen all manner of tragedies, and it is a 
mistake to suppose that a bartender grows callous, 
though his Hfe would be easier if he were Hke that. We 
must be polite and attentive, but I have seen the time 
when it was hard to keep from being a mere man and 
preaching temperance as I handed liquor to a customer. 
Our Hfe affords unlimited study of human nature. I 
have seen all the gradations, and after years of thought 
I have reached a few conclusions that are not new. One 
man in a thousand may drink safely. The others are 
threatened always, and this side the danger-line they 
are travelling with a curb bit. The man who sticks to 
three drinks a day is a miracle. A man who inherits a 
thirst from his father and grandfather may be a teeto- 
taller until he is fifty, but he may expect delirium 
tremens any time after he ceases to be a total abstainer. 
I have seen a town bum sober up and become a respect- 
able member of society, and I have a good deal of faith 
in the Keeley cure; but the gentleman who begins to 
get drunk after he is thirty years old might as well shoot 
himself and save his family physician the necessity of 
lying as to the cause of his death. I have never known 
but one man who had the jim-jams to escape a drunk- 
ard's death. Paralysis saved him. Whiskey is man- 
kind's strongest common love. It is the best medicine ' 
in the world, and as a means of killing off surplus 
population it is surer, though slower, than the Black 
Death." 

[237] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The King The new sanitarium around the corner advertises 
^^"^ that it will cure the drug habit and drinking by the im- 
mediate withdrawal policy, and says that the patient will 
suffer no evil effects or inconvenience therefrom. He 
will be made a normal man who normally doesn't care 
for stimulants or narcotics. That sounds pretty, and 
this is to be no criticism of the new method; but it is 
permissible for one to imagine that the gentleman who 
has been having pipe dreams for a quarter of a century 
will not be singing psalms of jubilation during the first 
few days after the morphine has been removed. More 
than all the gods in the world, the king drug receives 
faithful homage, and his gaunt hands forever tug at 
the vitals of the devotees who would be deserters from 
his shrine. Quit morphine! Have you ever seen any 
one quitting morphine? Quit the king drug and smile; 
writhe on the rack and laugh — 'tis the same. Whiskey 
means unrest and worry. Morphine gives the only ar- 
tificial sensation that is flawless. A morphine existence 
looks upon reaUsm as a horrid purgatory — as a rude 
awakening from a fanciful, soothing heaven. 'Tis so. 
Quitting comes after the sweat of agony beads the fore- 
head and the teeth are jammed hard against the lip. 
Morphine is the thing that the Lord makes people pay 
dearest for playing with. It brings too much happiness 
not to demand misery. If the latter end of morphine 
and the quitting of morphine did not mean a circum- 
scribed but sure hell, every other person that one met on 
the streets would have dreamy, unseeing eyes. Oh, the 
philosophy of the doctor people is all right: the only 
way to do a thing is to do it. But no man who falls un- 



REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

der the spell of the king drug or whiskey ever quits 
either without the ineffable torture of White Nights — the 
hard, dry clutch at the throat, the ache of punished 
nerves, and the grim, wearisome struggle over sickened 
manhood. 

* * * 

And the lesser evil, thirst — do you know what that 
is? Perhaps you have toiled along in the sunshine 
without water and then you have thought of a trickling 
spring under moss-covered rocks. Perhaps you have 
been so fever-stricken that you thought only of the 
parching and the easement. You call this thirst, and 
yet it is as a child's careless wish compared to that other 
thing — the devilish thirst that plays with a man and 
shakes him like a reed in the wind. . . . Restlessness, 
the gripe and the gnaw, the tongue that will not moisten, 
the hands that sink nails into flesh, the voice that must 
be stifled from screaming, the vain cry against thrall- 
dom, and then once more the fierce, keen, surging want 
that shivers the very soul in its madness and intensity. 
So! That is thirst. 

"I am going down to the hospital to tell a young man Blind! 
that he will never see again," said an eye specialist a 
few days ago. "He will be surprised. His eyes have 
been affected only a few days." Afterward the special- 
ist performed an operation that permitted the young 
man to see just enough out of one eye to keep out of the 
way of other people. He will never read again; never 
again see appreciatively the beauties of the universe. 
The incident will be marked as ordinary, though sad, 
[239] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Blind and yet it is a tragedy worse than death. Death is 
kinder than a living hurt that does not die, and blind- 
ness is a part of the loss-wail which cries the grief uni- 
versal. Blindness as a physical evil, weakness to re- 
place strength, or the loss of character, or the end of 
love — these sum up bitterer distress than grief before a 
bier. To have a thing and lose it. Here is the large 
spring of tears — here mankind's kinship in feebleness. 
Lost! 'Tis the most direful word in the language. It 
is God's term to describe a condition that we know not 
of, and it is given to man to wear it as a badge of worst 
mourning. The telling of all sorrow that one knows 
could begin with that one word. To live after remem- 
bering happiness that is dead; to breathe and be 
mocked by the ghost of sweetness; to lose beyond re- 
call — so comes the tragedy and the pathos. Lost! 
Blind! There are so much of both. Loss this side the 
grave is the worst, after all; and the most grewsome 
death's head is on real flesh and blood. 
* * * 

Such unpleasant reflection came involuntarily. One 
shudders in the face of the calamity that befell the 
young man, and his condition appeals for sympathy. 
He will probably live for a long time, and one thinks of 
the great test that is placed upon his bravery, for he 
must now totter as a memorial to loss. Every minute 
all his fortitude will be required. The story will re- 
mind Charlotte people of John Schenck, who was the 
most active and one of the happiest and most success- 
ful young men in this city. Suddenly he went blind. 
The thing seemed inconceivable. His life had been so 
[ 240 ] 



REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

promising; he had gloried in what he saw; he had so 
much to do. But, stricken, he crept to his home and 
died through the space of three years; and one thinks 
now that maybe heaven blessed him that way. For he 
t«autified and enriched the little Ufe that was left to 
him; made it a plea for unselfishness and a story of 
love; triumphed over affliction; and his passing was 
in sweetness and without fear. Viewing the test that 
was placed upon John Schenck and others who are 
openly struck with a heavy hand, there is wonder as to 
the credit that will be allowed for living just an ordi- 
nary life in which no very severe demand is made on 
endurance. As a man grows older he ceases to rail at 
the cause of suffering ; for through suffering comes puri- 
fication and the best in hfe. Usually the best people are 
the happiest, but the best happiness is the kind that 
comes after or through unhappiness. This shines and 
blesses with its radiance. 

As the years pass you find there is such a lot of death, Death 
and you have not lived long before you realize that most 
of life is dying. No one that you know is spared the 
touch of the moulded fingers. And as you are forced 
to look upon the Thing it becomes less terrible and in a 
stupid, useless sort of way you can reason about it. 
You find that after all it is a pretty easy sort of a matter 
to die and that there are comparatively few people who 
have not died. You learn that the Httle books that tell 
about the horrors of death-bed scenes show a picture 
that is not usually seen, for in the great majority of 
cases you see that the mental dread of death decreases 
i6 [ 241 ] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Death as the body becomes weaker, and the passing is quiet 
and without complaint or fright. As you hve and see 
you discover what has always been known — that the 
most natural event in all Hfe is dying, and the gaunt, 
grim Spectre terrorizes only where he grapples unawares 
and arranges to blot out to-day the mind that had every 
reason to expect to be vigorous on the morrow. The 
sudden death that in an instant transforms flesh and 
brain to clay may be kind, but the ghasthest sound in 
nature is the surprised whimper of a man who turns 
from revelHng in the sunshine to find himself dangling 
over the last abyss — fresh with the fulness of living, yet 
full of the knowledge that death cannot be denied. This 
is, or may be, hell. 

* * * 

This is the kind of death that shudders all mankind 
and screams a tale of incompleteness and the neglect 
of sacred duties. At the Southern depot two years ago 
a young man stepped off a train and was struck by a 
switch engine, the lower part of his body being crushed 
to bits. He was carried into the baggage room and laid 
high on a box; a physician examined him and shook 
his head, and the crowd stepped back and waited. 
Here were all the elements of a tragedy. The man 
didn't suffer; he was intensely aHve, acutely conscious, 
and he knew he couldn't hve two hours. His voice, 
desperately strong, told his misery in a dozen sentences. 
And it was an old story. He had just trifled with things. 
There was a mother, and she was a devoted mother; 
and some day he had expected to settle down and be 
worthy of her goodness, but — the brow was now damp 
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REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

with death sweat. There was another woman. . . . 
He pulled a package of letters from his pocket, fum- 
bled them and tried to read — and then spoke on. This 
woman — she had been gentle and faithful and young 
and tender, and he had intended, some time, to quit 
being unworthy, and show her that he could love un- 
selfishly. But now ! There was nothing that was worth 
while to say, but he talked as if he could never have 
done with speaking. He spoke, not incoherently, but 
feverishly, as against time; and one knew that he 
wanted to get up and scream a protest that it was all 
a mistake, that the summons had come too quick, that 
he had so many things to do — so very many things to 
say and do. His brain was keen in its understanding. 
He saw his whole life in an instant; saw the profitless 
years ; recognized all his latent power for good, and now 
knew that the good in him was being stifled for an eter- 
nity. And as he would have continued to speak in 
weird, fearful fretfulness, Death struck contemptuously 
and the wail went elsewhere. 

What becomes of the great human good that is killed An 
before it has a chance to exercise an influence? This ^"g^ 
is a question that arises out of the thought of another 
local tragedy. There was a woman here who was all 
that she should have been. Through ten years or more 
she loved a man and was engaged to him. She did well 
all her duties, but her whole mind and heart became 
centred on her marriage. She waited patiently enough, 
and the thought of her wedding day kept her heart 
young, though the touch of white came to her hair. 
[243 J 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Then, at last, the time came. Her house wore green 
and white; there were carriages in front of the door and 
an unmistakable bustle inside. For years the bride had 
read accounts of other people's weddings, and she 
wanted a reporter at her wedding. He went and was 
taken into a bedroom where a woman lay nigh unto 
death. But her face was enraptured. Every other per- 
son in the room looked anxious, but the bride was in 
ecstacies. This was her wedding day — a day that all 
her living had been shaped to meet. And, so, she was 
married. Because she was just a woman and a bride 
the reporter was a man to be considered, and she spoke 
to him with a girhsh flush on her face and a quiver in 
her voice. Would he make them show him the deco- 
rations and her wedding clothes? They were pretty 
clothes, she thought, and all of them she had made her- 
self — had made years and years ago. Would the re- 
porter please. . . . And the reporter did — did write all 
that a man may be allowed to write, and then, three 
days later, wrote an account of the death of the bride. 
But what became of all her preparation, of all her big, 
beautiful thoughts, of her deep, simple wish to be a good 
wife and, please God, a good mother. 

''Just "The saddest and strangest incident I ever saw was 
"^ a suicide in Kansas City a few years ago," said a travel- 
ing man at the Buford. "A revolver shot was heard in 
one of the rooms of the hotel and those of us who hur- 
riedly entered the room found a young man lying dead. 
He had shot himself through the heart and had died 
almost instantly. He was a singularly handsome fel- 
[244] 



REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

low, well groomed and carefully dressed. I remember "Just 
noticing the fineness of his linen, the slender links in 
his watch chain, the graceful fit of his clothes, and his 
strong, well-kept hands. And his face suggested 
strength and character without trace of weakness. Some 
man in the room groaned : ' My God ! The boy has made 
a mistake. He had no business to die.' On the table 
next to the bed was the pencilled explanation • 

'"Just tired.' 

"There was also on the table a sealed letter to a 
woman. That was all. The young man was well- 
known and the papers had a lot to say about his sui- 
cide, but no cause was ever assigned. After everything 
was said the world merely knew that for reason suffi- 
cient unto himself the man had wanted to die and had 
died. There was no suggestion of his insanity. He was 
tired and his life went out at that." 
* * * 

In the Western world men say in kindness, kind or 
unkind, that a self-murderer suffered from temporary 
aberration of the mind, and the words are supposed to 
bring surcease of sorrow to relatives. The saying is nat- 
ural in a way, for to the ordinary, healthy mind the 
thought of suicide, of deliberately sending one's self into 
eternity, is ghastly and revolting. To look with clear 
eyes upon sunlight, to hear the laughter of children, to 
see the beauty in all nature — and then to take the privi- 
lege of deity and send out a blackened, restless soul into 
the unknown! . . . The mind grasps such things fee- 
bly, and, in knowing suffering, shudders at the limitless 
possibilities of human agony. Insanity? So! It is 
[ 245 ] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

better so to think. Moreover, self-death is termed rank 
cowardice, which, in evident contradiction, seeks eter- 
nal chastening. To punish a palpitating thing that 
suffered till it wanted to die! 'Tis hard to conceive 
of that. 

Miirder I tell you there is something ghastly in the thought of 
killing a Thing that can think and talk and love and 
yet has such a little while in wliich to shape the destiny 
of an immortal soul. For a mere man to take the pre- 
rogatives of deity and fix the time when that Thing 
shall float out into the Unknown — ah, that is awful! 
What room for brooding! "I am eternally prodding 
myself by puzzHng over what the other fellow might 
have done if he had been allowed to Hve," was the re- 
mark made to me by a man who had happened to fire 
first. 

* * * 

" Justification — ^justified ! " Oh, the cynical jest ! The 
judge and jury fade away, but it is a poor, triumphant 
figure who stalks away into White Nights — into the 
black land of Remorse. He lies when he says he finds 
easement. He is so branded and seared within himself 
that his brain, stung beyond hope of cure, will agonize 
him till he dies. 

* * * 

A man's wrestle over his own soul is the most stupen- 
dous tragedy. What added and terrible burden there 
must be in being forever shrouded with the grave clothes 
of another man — in conjuring visions of staring eyes 
and dank hair and in speculating about the soul that 
[246] 



REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

rudely found unripe freedom. Such poor leavings are 
these when full passion has been gratified. 

In the numerous cases of murder that have been re- The 
cently reported in the papers, you have perhaps noticed ^^ ""^^^ 
that the murderers, or those who have been charged 
with murder, have invariably been characterized as 
showing a cool, bold front. Sometimes they have been 
jocular, and Mr. H. E. C. Bryant says that James Wil- 
cox, who was charged with the murder of NelHe Cropsey, 
actually looked happy. Molineux was never for a mo- 
ment disconcerted or abashed ; and coming to the small 
fry of the defendants — to those who are admittedly 
guilty, you find uniform self-possession, if not bravado. 
All over the country there are men who are facing, or 
standing on, the gallows with a laugh on their lips ; and 
the single cry of repentance and plea for mercy come 
from the wretch who is suddenly made to face the burn- 
ing fagots. Murderers — all murderers, seemingly — face 
trial easily and death easily; and there are only a few 
cases to show the retribution that is supposed to operate 
this side of the grave. The law, in the fine, savage 
limit of its vengeance, seems impotent, and is mocked 
by the last jeering words that are mumbled in the death- 
cap. A snake has bitten and a snake has crushed, but 
it dies — a snake. 

* * * 

All history shows the operation of this defiant spirit, 
and one is forced to come to the conclusion that the real 
punishment for the deliberate murderer begins only be- 
yond the gallows. You kill him, and that is an easy 
[247] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

matter and a precaution against further crime, but all 
the sternness and justness of justice fail to bow a stub- 
born head or bring remorse to a gloating heart. This 
places a murderer in a distinctive class. You can't get 
at him and you can't know him any more than you can 
know the workings of the heart of a tiger. He has 
wanted very much to do a thing and he has done it, and 
he stays on the high tide of his exultation till he faces 
That which made him and can make him suffer. 
* * * 

This is a cursory study of bad men who have had 
time, through the processes of the law, to prepare for 
death. A man can be keyed up to do anything. You 
are, so far as you know, perfectly well, but if within the 
hour a physician were to tell you that you had a mortal 
disease, your mind, horrified at first, would in a very 
short time begin to adjust itself to the new condition 
and would prepare you to face the end with equanimity. 
But if you, without warning and while in the flush of best 
strength, found death at your elbow, you, being an ordi- 
nary sort of a man, would suffer terror indescribable. 
The murderer is given the physic — wait, or time for 
preparation. Without that — if his punishment were 
immediate — he would probably meet the end as a trem- 
bling coward. 

A Crude Almost every day one hears of a man killing a woman 

rage y ^^^ apparently trivial cause. The normal man wonders. 

There is possible extenuation when one man strives 

equally with a fellow man and slays him to save his own 

life. But the thing in a human being that will cause 

[248] 



REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

him to murder the female of his kind is not to be an- A Crude 
alyzed, though it is uppermost in the annals of crime. Tragedy 

Within the last three years in this city three colored 
men have slain women, two of the criminals being wife- 
murderers. In all three cases, so far as the public could 
see, the excuse or provocation for murder was the nag- 
ging spirit of the women. In one instance a woman fol- 
lowed a man and taunted and worried him. In another 
a wife flaunted disobedience in the face of her lord and 
master; and in the last case — when Pauline Gabriel 
was killed last week — the wife nagged her husband 
when he was hungry. 

* * * 

Lee Gabriel had been working hard and he came 
home very hungry. Moreover, he had brought home 
some white beans. And his wife wouldn't cook his din- 
ner and nagged him. His mind, dwelhng upon the 
tragedy, drones out these things, making the razor and 
the axe and the horrible blows all incidental features. 
He was very hungry. There were the beans. She 
wouldn't cook. He slew her. And he sobs and swears 
he loved her and adds, in simplicity, that the beans 
were good beans. 

* * * 

Gabriel was not a degenerate. He was just crude, 
primeval. Every day his white brothers put to death 
women and leave the task of assigning cause to the rest 
of mankind. Oftentimes the murderers merely remem- 
ber that there were words and words, and the brute 
stifled life in his weaker kind. One thing only is always 
clearly visible, and this is the power of a woman's 
[249] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

tongue to infuriate a man to the point of madness. 
Merely on this point the world agrees. A bad woman 
is the worst thing that is allowed to live; and a nagging 
woman has a nice tendency to direct people hellwards. 

The Image " What form of death do you prefer ? " questioned the 
of Death observant resident. " Standing on your feet — ^with your 
boots on ? Well, that's the way most men wish to die. 
They want it to come right quick. But about the form 
of death — do you think of death as coming in any par- 
ticular way? Yes. Well, most people do. You will 
find that nearly every man who reflects much on the 
subject always associates dying with a certain scene or 
method — sometimes with one disease, and sometimes 
with a particular locality. Maybe there is in your 
mind the picture of an old graveyard, where ivy chngs 
above ancient tombstones, and you think of this and 
death as coming together. I know a man, and when he 
thinks of death he sees at once an old mill-pond that was 
near his boyhood's home — a mouldy old pond where 
snags protruded and where frogs croak dismally at 
night. Dying to him means being pressed down in a 
place like that; and most other men have mental pic- 
tures that stand as vivid conceptions of death. It is one 
of the greatest blessings that no person can really im- 
agine himself dead. The only likeness to it is sleep, but 
sleep is sweet. To the normal person death seems suf- 
focation — first. Beyond that he doesn't let himself 
think, but shudders. The great comfort is that when 
Nature handles the affair nobody has any terror. A 
man's honror of death decreases in proportion as he be- 
[250] 



REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AND DEATH 

comes physically weak; and ghastly death-bed scenes 
are usually the product of an imagination that wishes to 
frighten the wicked." 

How did the man die? 'Tis a question that the The House 
world asks about everybody. In childhood one thinks ° ®^ 
about death as a far-off day — a day when no one is al- 
lowed to whistle in the house and when people enter the 
front door without knocking and know where to go 
without being told. There is the gloomy, still church, 
the faint rustle of women's garments, the becraped 
heads leaning low, the slow, melancholy music, and the 
solemn words that bespeak the httleness of man and the 
reason for his peace. And you wonder. 



[251] 



CHAPTER XV 

MISCELLANY 

Two "I am always noticing two kinds of courting men," 
Courting remarked a citizen who has long acted as an usher at one 

Men of the local churches. "A man comes to the church 
door and his eyes roam over the place until he finds the 
woman he is looking for. If he walks up the aisle and 
sits in front of the woman so she can look at him he is 
one kind of a courting man. But if he is satisfied to take 
a back seat so that he can see the woman and cannot be 
seen he is another kind of a suitor and much the better 
kind. Oh, these little things show character. And it 
would be dangerous to marry any man who would rath- 
er be looked at by a woman than to look at her." 

" Drunks "Only drunks and downs to-night," said the turnkey 
Dow^" ^^ ^^^ police station. "No cases of any importance 
whatever: only drunks and downs." Only a rudder- 
less derelict in the maelstrom ; only a mind besotted by 
a curse; only a soul engulfed; only a man chained to 
the body of death ! 

Harmlessly There is a man in this county who was harmlessly 
nsane jj^gg^j^^g ^qj. several years — ^just touched in the head in a 
way that did not interfere with his health or liberty. 
[252J 



MISCELLANY 

And he was happy — so happy. The world was rose- 
hued to him, and he had the most innocent, yet fantas- 
tic delusions about himself — his cleverness and what 
people thought of him. He lived with his dream gods 
always, and had never a care or sorrow. Then they 
sent him away and cured him; and now he worries 
about taxes and his cotton crop, and beats his dog. 
They pulled him out of Wonderland, and now an extra 
soda biscuit or mettlesome corns make him curse des- 
tiny. They did right, of course. He has forgotten how 
to smile. Those whom the gods would destroy they 
sometimes refuse madness. 

"Dreams! What are dreams!" said Dr. Charles F. Dreams and 
Brem. " Some man has said that they are the result of Niglit™ares 
one part of the brain entertaining another part. An odd, 
quaint idea. I wonder?" 

"Nightmares! Did you ever have nightmares?" 
asked Mr. George W. Campbell. "Nightmares sug- 
gest future punishment to me. Some part of a man just 
leaves him and suffers. I have wondered if the thing 
that suffers in a nightmare doesn't travel around after 
death, to be tortured in a cramped sort of way." 
* * * 

'Tis an eerie idea. ... to go through the countless 
centuries shuddering with Httle moans, a baffled, fright- 
ened victim of regret that will not die. To feel forever 
the gloom and to see not clearly — to realize the utter 
horror of the worst nightmare, and know no easement — 
that is a fearful conception. This reminds one, some- 
how, of Dickens's picture of punishment as portrayed in 
[253] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

his story about Scrooge and Marley. There the spirit 
drifted and wailed uselessly over lost opportunities — 
saw error and couldn't rectify it; witnessed pain and 
could offer no balm. Such was the agony of remorse. 
The wonder — the vain, puzzled wonder. . . . 
* * * 

But dreams be sweet, too — so sweet that man hugs 
his best dream to his heart and will not tell it. And day 
dreams — do you know them ? They gather behind the 
sternest brow, and they show a dear, secret world. What 
matter if you are a hero or a heroine — what matter if 
the ugly duckling sees herself crowned a princess — what . 
matter if you hear the plaudits of successful ambition? 
You may not laugh at the dreamers of the day — these 
folk who build the best without ever attaining it. To 
tilt the chin and look out into a land where peace and 
happiness are — to be simple and fine, and to be judged 
as that ; to witness the unselfishness that really is not ! 
'Tis not bad. To feel the nearness of understanding, 
the closeness of sympathy, to be protected by Love, an 
eternal comrade. . . . Foolish! Ay. And sweet. 

The Gods Those big old gods, by the way, were about the most 
of the East interesting things the writer saw in the East. They are 
fascinating frauds, and they play such an important 
part in the life about. Now, there was Sheng, the mil- 
lionaire mandarin in China, who in many respects was 
as modern as a progressive New Yorker. Sheng prom- 
ised that if his father got well, he, Sheng, would go to 
Poo-too, the place of many temples, and do much 
honor to all the gods. The father did get well. Sheng 
I 254 ] 



MISCELLANY 

sailed for Poo-too, and the writer had the good fortune 
to be on his ship. In this place which contains very an- 
cient gods and temples, priests and no women, Sheng 
made his devoirs and spent $40,000 in one day. He had 
in him no more spiritual essence than a cat. He had 
made a promise, and, to use common parlance, he ful- 
filled it by dehvering the goods to the gods. Those 
Eastern gods are just practical propositions. They live 
within a stone's throw of your house, and you can go to 
them at any time and burn paper money before their 
thrones — tell them that you are in a plagued bad fix and 
beseech them in pity's name to hurry up and help you 
out of a hole. 

* * * 

But in one roadside temple and before one divinity 
there was a scene that will Uve forever in memory. 
This lacked not in spiritual quality. Here was a golden 
goddess, whose placid face scarcely concealed an ex- 
pression of indifference or disdain. She received pray- 
ers that were more sincere than any that were offered 
to all other deity. Men passed her by, but before her 
throne women grovelled in the dust in the abandon of 
entreaty — childless women, agonized. 

In this State the gods laughed at a man and let him An Inland 
go to Congress. He had been a successful young law- ^^^ '*^* 
yer who lived in a small town. He was happy in a 
careless, well-fed life, and the study of his profession 
was a recreation. His social life was all that he cared 
for it to be. After a few years in Washington he came 
home with link cuffs, his first dress suit, and hungriness 
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IDLE COMMENTS 

in his eyes. They gave him a party where they had 
lemonade as a chaser, and he remembered a Washington 
theatre party and high-balls. He hadn't seen enough 
of a big Uf e to be a man of the world ; and he was al- 
ways drawing comparisons that made him miserable. 
The small town bored him stiff, and he got into the fatal 
habit of not listening to the idle talk of his friends. His 
sole wish was to get away from the place and go back 
to Washington, or hold some other political ofhce. He 
is Hving now, though he is not especially interested in 
the fact. He has lost the Hnks to one of his cuffs and 
his clothes are shiny in spots. He will be evermore 
praying for political lightning to strike him again. Un- 
til it does — and it won't — he is so disordered and mis- 
placed as to deserve characterization as an inland dere- 
Hct. 

The Story of The newspaper man noticed that women — many 
a Picture -^omen — stopped in front of the show window of Hous- 
ton, Dixon & Company yesterday and looked at a pic- 
ture. And as they looked their faces grew interested 
and thoughtful, for there is something about the picture 
that challenges attention. It is a cleverly done thing, 
by C. Allan Gilbert, and is called "The End of a Love 
Story." It shows a man and a woman in a darkened 
room. The woman is in a whitish evening dress, and 
is lying outstretched on a long lounge. Her opera cloak 
is thrown shghtly from her shoulders, and her hair is a 
bit dishevelled and falls back wavily. Every line of her 
body suggests rest, relaxation. At first glance she seems 
to be asleep, but as one looks closer he sees that she is 
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MISCELLANY 

not asleep, and that her lowered lashes do not hide the The Story of 
strange, steady expression of peace, yet wonderment, *""^® 
that is in her eyes. 

Her eyes rest upon the man who kneels at her side. 
There is no affectation in his pose. His face is turned, 
and one sees only the back of a well-poised head and 
the outline of firm, clear-cut features. His head is 
bowed above broad shoulders, and his lips touch the 
woman's hand. The room is cosy, comfortable. It is 
a man's room. Thick curtains are parted at a window 
that looks out upon a darkening street, and a book, 
opened, lies face down at the window ledge. One imag- 
ines that it is just eventide, and that a cheery fire burns 
in the grate. 

Attached to the picture there is a Httle placard which 
explains everything. The woman's people wanted her 
to marry a rich suitor and had worried her, and so she 
had left her home and come to the man she loved, put- 
ting herself absolutely in his hands. 

And the man, with fineness, strength and humility 
portrayed in every line, had knelt at her side and had 
dared only to touch her hand with his Ups. She looks 
unabashed, unashamed, secure. The man is grateful 
beyond words. One knows that. Maybe he finds 
heart to breathe a prayer. Maybe he struggles to keep 
down the gulp that rises in his throat. One knows that 
neither of the two has spoken for some time — that nei- 
ther will speak for a while. Some things are not said 
in words. 

But why the name — why "The End of a Love 
Story" ? Can there be irony in the title? The woman 
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IDLE COMMENTS 

has a good, strong face, too, but there is utter languid- 
ness about her. She is Beauty at ease — yet Beauty in 
splendor. Her proud finery seems yet out of place in 
the simple room. 

The end of a love story ? Did she bring self-abnega- 
tion with her? Will she grieve when the opera cloak 
and the other satinish things are taken away? Is she 
even now thinking that possibly she has made a mis- 
take? Has she one tinge of regret over what she has 
done ? Is this the cynical ending that is meant ? 

Oh, no; not that. The end is just the beginning. 
The woman is a little tired now — and she has a right to 
be tired, hasn't she? She is young and tender, and she 
has done a very brave thing. She needs the abandon 
that is in her pose. Her weariness is womanish, with 
no lack of womanHness. And she feels the great gen- 
tleness and reverence that are in the room . . . feels 
glad that the world is on the outside; and she will be 
happy forever and forever. 

The end is the beginning, and through all the years 
to come the man and the woman are to stand side by 
side and look out peacefully upon the gathering 
shadows. 

And the man is sure of himself and his woman, and 
so he dares to kneel and touch her in utter thankful- 
ness. 

Love Letters The English have a nice little bold custom that 

^ °^^ doesn't seem to obtain here. Once the writer was over 

in Yokohama when the British court was trying a 

woman for the murder of her husband. She was a 

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MISCELLANY 

clean-built, aristocratic specimen, and her husband was Love Letters 
a big-hearted chap who had an impassioned sort of ^° '-'°^" 
fondness for his horses and his dogs and his clubs and 
his children and his wife. He must have gotten on her 
nerves in some way, for she fell to putting arsenic in the 
things that he ate. She was clever enough, and after- 
ward the physicians admitted this. She was not in a 
bit of a hurry; but she sat by the side of her husband 
and dosed him gradually. He was not satisfied to have 
anybody nurse him but his wife, and so she used to 
keep the long watches of the night with him; and when 
he grew feverish or suffered she used to smooth his brow 
with cool, patrician hands and then give him nourish- 
ing drink that contained only a reasonable amount of 
poison. Because she had thorough charge of the situa- 
tion and was unsuspected, the wife took her own sweet 
time and slowly murdered her husband through a 
period of tv/o weeks. Subsequently, people said he had 
a look of horrible apprehension in his eyes, and that he 
clung to his wife in a way that was both pitiable and 
pathetic. 

* * * 

But the wife had a maid who watched through key- 
holes and got into a habit of picking up pieces of letters 
from waste baskets and piecing them together. And 
the maid told things, and Mrs. Carew — for that was 
her name — was arrested and tried for her life. 

* * * 

My! What a sensation ensued. Mrs. Carew was a 
dreamy, aesthetic woman who would know just exactly 
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IDLE COMMENTS 

Love Letters what you meant if you called her ''spirit of old-f ash- 
in Coiirt JQj^g(j roses." A good many men had said things Hke 
that to her, and the maid had patched up correspond- 
ence to show this. The Austrian consul, who was a 
diplomat, left for home by the first boat, but a well- 
known bank man did not leave and was put on the wit- 
ness stand. Mrs. Carew was the kind of a woman who 
plaintively told only a few people that she was misun- 
derstood by her husband, and the bank man was one of 
the few. He was so sympathetic — thought she was too 
fine a creature to be mated to the big frank fellow who 
was always talking of riding to the hounds ; and he said 
as much in letters that breathed a monopoly of under- 
standing. 

* * * 

And they made that bank man sit up there on the 
witness stand before a crowded court room and read his 
own letters to the woman. By this time everybody 
knew she had committed a fiendish murder; yet the 
bank man had to read aloud to His Worship and the 
jury epistles that almost deified the woman. The writ- 
ten love-making was not overdone, not fulsome, but 
delicate, exquisite. It would have flushed the face and 
honored the soul of a good woman who was not already 
a wife; but what a ghastly, horrid sound the words 
made as the pallid-faced man uttered them in that 
dreary court room. "You, heartsease"; "dear, tender 
woman"; "reverence"; "heartfelt appreciation of 
your unhappiness and its cause" — these were some of 
the words that the man had w^ritten and was forced to 
read as a token of his shame. He had not been a crimi- 
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MISCELLANY 

nal, but a colossal dupe, which is worse than being a Love Letters 
criminal. Ugh! It was awful! in Court 

* * * 

Now, how would it feel to be taken over yonder in the 
court house and be placed on the stand within a few 
feet of Judge Neal and just in front of Solicitor Webb ? 
You are handed a letter and you recognize your own 
handwriting. You are directed to open the letter and 
read. You are facing all sorts of people that you know 
and don't know. You painfully clear your throat and 
start out with : 

"Oh, my blooming, beaucheous angel," or some 
other little commonplace term that you keep out of 
your business correspondence. You would be so frus- 
trated over your position that you would probably re- 
mind yourself of the young man who was so bothered 
by the htigation over his father's estate that he declared 
he was almost sorry the old man had ever died. You 
would really wish that you never knew what a darling 
or a dearest was, wouldn't you ? 

* * * 

You see, a letter is a terrible thing. Rather than write 
a letter on an important matter, one of the biggest men 
in this State will get on the train and ride five hundred 
miles — ^just to talk only a few minutes. And a letter to 
a woman may prevent a man from lying as he ought to 
lie. If he hasn't written a letter, then he should perjure 
himself, of course, and he will be cursed if he doesn't 
commit perjury. It is Capt. Harrison Watts who tells 
the story that has been referred to previously in this 
coimection. A member of a crack Southern club, 
[261] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

while on the witness stand, was asked if he had ever 
kissed a certain woman. He said "I decHne to an- 
swer." A few hours later the governing officers of his 
club met and expelled the man from the club, declaring 
that the only answer a gentleman could make to such a 
question must be "No." 

"A Ground- Never was such fine early spring weather as there 
hog Case " ^^^ j^^^ ^^^^^ -^^^ ]y[^j)_ Watkins, of this township, 

shot the groundhog. 'Twas the only groundhog in Mr. 
Watkins 's neighborhood, and that hog was a disgruntled 
pessimist if there ever was one. He had his home in a 
hole on the bank of a creek, and he tried to play as 
much devilment as possible with the six weeks of 
weather that were under his exclusive control. 'Twas 
different when he was quite a young, blithe pig. Then 
when he made arrangements to come out at his regu- 
larly appointed time — on February 2d — he would ap- 
pear at a darksome or cloudy time of day so that, not be- 
ing able to see his shadow, he might secure a lengthy 
period of Italian skies and the early blossom of spring 
onions. But as the groundhog grew older and older he 
suffered from dyspepsia or something, and he took a 
peculiar pleasure in commemorating his day by stroll- 
ing around in the sunshine and watching his awesome 
shadow, knowing full well that he was working for the 
deluge. Mr. Watkins said he simply grew tired of the 
perversity of that groundhog — which, remember, was 
the only groundhog in the neighborhood — and at length 
he determined to act in the premises of the distinguished 
prophecy. 

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MISCELLANY 

Came a February 2d in the seventies, and Mr. Wat- 
kins concealed himself, with a shot-gun in his hand, and 
watched the mouth of the groundhog's hole. In the 
forenoon and until late afternoon the rain rained right 
heavily, and Mr. Watkins knew that if the elements 
continued beclouded the groundhog would be helpless 
even if 'twere a case of root-hog-or-die. But the 
shower ceased and the sun's rays fell glimmeringly. 
Suddenly the nose of the groundhog appeared, then his 
head, then his body and then his tail — until he was aU 
out of the hole. He had an evil smile on his face, for he 
thought that in a minute he would be gazing upon his 
shadow and then farewell to fair weather. He walked 
out, with his shadow following quite closely behind 
him. And he dallied with his shadow like a cat playing 
with a mouse. There his shadow was, right in the rear, 
and all he had to do was to turn around and inspect it. 
He appeared to tease himself into a state of pleasurable 
anticipation, and, having exhausted this emotion, his 
eyes revolved and he slowly began turning his head. 
But before he could so much as rest his optics upon 
the tip end of his shadow nose, Mr. Watkins fired and 
the groundhog died — in the very act of an evil forecast. 
Of course it couldn't rain after that, and Mr. Watkins 
was voted a vote of thanks and a prize chromo by his 
appreciative neighbors. 

After an experience of a great many years, I have The Judge 
concluded that the worst judge is the harsh man who is 
judge. He doesn't deceive even himself when he pun- 
ishes every offender to the utmost degree and then de- 
[263] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

The Judge clares that he merely enforces the law. I never saw a 
harsh judge who didn't have cruel lines about his 
mouth. A cruel judge is a cruel man, and as a judge 
he does little favor to the law by his application of it. 
A judge who has a set rule for trying criminals — ^who 
says that every man who carries a pistol shall be fined so 
much; or that every thief, regardless of age or color, 
shall suffer to such and such degree — that judge may 
not be a fool, but he will have a hard time before the 
final judgment bar. For man is a creature of passions 
and repentance, and when he sins openly a judge may 
break him at the wheel and blast him for life, or extend 
the mercy that he is allowed to extend under the law, 
and by words of advice save a life from further sin and 
for happiness and good deeds. Too severe punishment 
belittles the majesty of the law. History for all times 
shows that to be true. The judges who moved as 
scourges never caused decrease in crime. Breaking the 
law is inevitable; but law breakers act from varied mo- 
tives, and are men of different temperaments. Some 
have been tempted sorely; some have been hasty; 
some have been thoughtless, and have already repented ; 
and some are hardened and deserve the deepest damna- 
tion. Such aggregation fills every court room — old men, 
young men, proud men, shameless men — men whose 
whole future lives are to be affected by the quick deci- 
sion of a judge who, in his heart, does not pretend to do 
more than speak his character as a man. 
* * * 

So, as a cure for evil, the judge has a dangerous 
responsibility. If he deals alike with all men, he can 
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MISCELLANY 

have no knowledge of human nature, no pity, or no re- 
spect for the noble purpose of his high office. I have seen 
judges vi^ho looked too tenderly on all sinners. I have 
also seen judges in North Carolina v^^ho did not possess 
the quality of mercy. I have watched the works of the 
different judges; and I believe that cruelty in the name 
of the law is a crime that is unpardonable in the eyes of 
heaven. Common sense, an understanding of his fel- 
low man, and a kind heart — these quaHties every judge 
should have. But if he has them not — if he lets his 
merciless character as a man speak in his office of judge, 
he shall do evil all the days of his official life. 

In the last issue of his paper, Rev. B says : A Point in 

"The Idle Comment column of the Charlotte Obser- ^° °^ 
ver is always a very readable corner of that excellent 
paper. In fact, the high esteem in which that paper is 
held by our people generally makes its utterances on any 
topic exceedingly important. One having thus the ear 
of the public, and having the prerogative of speaking 
with authority, should weigh very carefully every utter- 
ance, and make sure that the cause of religious truth 
and faith is not made to suffer because of loose or un- 
guarded statements. In this column in a recent issue 
we find the following: 

"'At the tent meeting last night the preacher said 
that on the judgment day God would laugh at the cal- 
amity of the sinner and mock at his fear. Do you 
think He will do that? There must be punishment. 
One feels that, somehow. But it isn't even human to 
laugh at suffering. It is inconceivable that God should 
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IDLE COMMENTS 



A Point in be Other than tender and gentle, even in His stern- 



Theology ^ggg_ 



"Perhaps the preacher should have been more ex- 
pHcit, but it now stands the author of these idle com- 
ments in hand to go a step further with his cogitations 
and tell the reader exactly what is meant in Pro v. 1:26. 
Perhaps if he and Brother Montgomery will get together 
they can give us an interpretation that will neither dis- 
credit the character of God nor help the cause of scep- 
ticism." 

H: H: ^ 

No, Mr. B , the writer of the comment column 

will not attempt to give an interpretation of any portion 

of the Scriptures, and he would be sorry if he were strong 

enough or weak enough to say anything that would help 

the cause of scepticism. He believes that God does not 

laugh or mock at calamity; and he is not foolish 

enough to attempt an argument or explanation that you 

do not wish to provoke. It is man's privilege to believe 

that God's mercy is limitless; and in considering the 

inevitable punishment there is honor, and not discredit, 

to the character of God in believing that He will sorrow 

over human suffering. Is it wrong or sceptical to oe- 

lieve in the infinite tenderness and gentleness of the 

God of the Christians ? 

* * * 

And no loose talk about religious matters was in- 
tended. Only a fool so talks ; and any man who is not 
a fool must see that the Christian reHgion is the only 
basis for perfect happiness. The comment man, who 
shrinks from obtruding his personality into this matter, 
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MISCELLANY 

merely ventured to express a simple opinion, and if he 

deserves rebuke from you, Brother B , he will receive 

it silently. Whatever he may be personally, his head 
is bowed under the admonishment of the man of God. 
He has learned to revere above all other persons those 
simple, earnest men who lovingly uphold the teachings 
of religion and condemn ceaselessly any deviation from 
the one faith. Such men the world admires and trusts 
to the utmost. 

* * * 

No; no harm, nor aught but respect and honesty 
was meant. With this assertion the writer would 
withdraw from perilous ground. In such matters he 
holds no further right to speech than to join the rest of 
mankind in despising those ghastly play-actors who 
occasionally desecrate a pulpit. God never created a 
creature of more ineffable horror and baseness than the 
man-thing who smirks and prates in the temple and 
has naught of love or fairness in his dealings with his 
fellow man. Here is the real dead-weight on Christian- 
ity — the man who has conceit in his theology and is a 
cad at heart. 

The world may or may not be in a state of spiritual The 
decadence, but the time will never come when it will fail ^^^^ " 
to admire and reverence the preacher who is a good 
man and a gentleman — not a gentleman as a snob 
would use the term, but a gentle, clean man who is 
above littleness in thought or action. Such men are the 
best beloved in this country; and in heathen lands — 
the writer has watched them there — they are the men 
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IDLE COMMENTS 

The who conquer in the name of their Master. The worst 
Preacher ^^^ living trusts a good preacher as impHcitly as he 
would trust his own mother. And it is a mistaken idea 
that the carnal world fixes an exacting standard for a 
preacher. Mankind in the aggregate is not a fool, and 
it merely asks that a preacher shall be a gentleman, that 
he shall try to be good, and that he shall try to help 
others to be good. 

* * * 
Between good preachers and sinners there is never 
any misunderstanding. To the sinner, the preacher is 
the biggest man he knows, and the preacher knows this 
without presuming on his knowledge. The two may 
never get together, but the one will never give offense 
to the other. The old-time man of God is the model 
presented here. Did you ever know him to fail to win 
respect and liking universal? 



No; when a preacher is cursed a preacher deserves 
cursing. Put a pin there. Everybody in this country 
went to Sunday-school, knows good men by intuition, 
and respects them naturally or as a part of a creed, and 
when men rise up to say that a preacher has in him the 
elements of a bad man he stands face to face with a 
truth that cannot be cried down by a whine, nor hidden 
under cloth that is worn as a mask. A sinner knows a 
bad preacher by an instinct, and has the same con- 
tempt for him that he has for any maUgnant, mouthing 
buffoon. There is no chance for misjudgment here. 
The bad man who is a preacher stands naked in the 
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MISCELLANY 

eyes of other men. He is far too large a blot on purity 
to escape unnoticed. 

* * * 

Good preachers neither fear nor receive the criticism 
that impugns character or motives. They know that 
their positions in a community are settled by the silent 
voice of that community, and there is never any dissat- 
isfaction over the result. This statement is provoked by 
the fact that occasionally one hears the complaint that 
a minister or his church is not accorded a proper dig- 
nity or respect. That is all nonsense. Critics neither 
hurt nor bother churches or good preachers, and they 
criticise those w^ho bring shame to a high calling be- 
cause there is nothing else to do but criticise. It is 
quite right that this should be so. 

* * * 

And the narrowing eyes that scan bad preachers do 
not beam ill nature, though they recognize the essence 
of fraud and the most horrid mockery. The bad old 
monks were merely laughed at, and the bad preacher 
of these days is generally given a wide range and un- 
limited license. All that the world asks him to do is to 
refrain from doing or saying things that might cause 
him to be cut to shreds with a dog- whip if he happened 
to be unprotected by a clergyman's coat. 

A correspondent in the Observer speaks of the kinship Humor and 
between humor and sadness, and asks if humorists are ^ °^ 
not sad men or melancholy men. He uses sad and 
melancholy as synonyms. That is wrong. Sadness is 
a sane, tender thing. A melancholy person is morbid 
[269] 



IDLE COMMENTS 

Humor and or fanciful, just as melancholia is one definition of in- 
^* °^ sanity. But since the world was young it has been sad- 
ness and humor side by side. Both are not to be con- 
fused with other emotions. Sadness besets a soul that is 
tired for cause and has a dignity of its own. Humor is 
kind and gentle, and is mocked by many imitators. The 
two quahties bless each other, and sadness would be the 
chief est curse if it were not accompanied by humor. The 
test of the question is to be applied to every-day living. 
It is known that most of the greatest humorists were 
sad men; and yet, on the other hand, there is genuine 
humor in books that were written by the sunniest peo- 
ple. But as one lives and moves about and touches 
people he learns that humor is the handmaiden of sad- 
ness. Sadness is the heartache, and humor comes direct 
from the heart. Fun provokes a throat laugh; humor 
moves deeply and leaves an impression. Sometimes 
one is swamped in misery, and would die if it were not 
for the humor — brave, sweet, gentle. There is humor 
that would make one weep, and it is the best. And hu- 
mor and tears are never very far apart. A little while 
ago a man died here — died in poverty, and his death 
marked the close of a career that had given every prom- 
ise of success and happiness. He died yet young. He 
saw failure behind him and destitution for his children. 
He had to die so slowly and thoughtfully. And humor 
stepped in and saved him from the ghastliest punish- 
ment for the little while he had to breathe. He had a 
true sense of humor — grave, playful humor that allowed 
him to give what comfort he could to himself and those 
who were at his bedside. He died almost with a laugh 
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MISCELLANY 

— a good laugh. Sadness had encompassed him every 
second, and yet Ms humor was keener and dearer than 
it had ever been in his life. It is always so, isn't it ? The 
sigh comes before or after the best mirth. So just in 
little ways the kinship is -noted. Both qualities grow in 
the same soil. Sadness is a part of love or is caused by 
love; and humor is most lovable. In its essence sad- 
ness speaks the real heart of man through humor. In 
best sense sadness and humor are as fine, as purified 
and as sacred as the inner emotion of a good woman 
. . . and both walk with love and unselfishness. 

No. 97 ! And the public now has a picture in its No. 97 
mind. Bounding out of the North, a lean racer, trimmed 
for speed and endurance, the fast mail comes with the 
swiftness of the wind yet in titanic velocity. There 
were trains before, but nothing Hke the fast mail — this 
gray gleam by day and ball of fire by night. What a 
mad, glorious career for an unweighted, uncollared 
thing! Thrice she was crushed, and once so completely 
that when the hush came only the voice of a bird car- 
olled above the dead. But ever out of ruin No. 97 
arises, clean, beautiful, clipper-built, and leaps forth, 
thin-harnessed, short-coupled, and races fiercely out of 
the quick North down through the sleepy old South. 
Hands are held out to other trains and they stop; but 
No. 97 flies with a majestic challenge, a wild creature 
with one grand, resistless errand. Ghosts travel with 
No. 97 — ay, too many poor ghosts whose wail arises in 
the roar that is the high scream of progress, the tri- 
umphant shout of the tragedy queen. 
[271J